People always ask me, “How did you think of that?”
I never know how to answer that question. It is usually asked of me in regards to the student projects I dream up. The culmination of my experiences and the emotional attachment I have, on any given day, to the things I see in my path: the turning of a page of a particular magazine, the sight of a particular word in a poem, the fragrances I smell on my walk, can set off a creative burst of energy like a boulder rolling down a mountain. My colleagues can attest to the fact that when I’m in “my zone”, I don’t hear people talking to me that are sitting right in my office. I can totally tune out when I’m tuned in to what I’m doing.
Although I studied art education for a while in college, I eventually changed my mind and became a studio artist. I received my BFA and also got certified to teach art, Kindergarten through 12th grade. I remember saying that I didn’t actually want to teach. But time changes things and now that I have taught school-age art students, I would conclude that this experience has been one of the most valuable gifts I’ve ever received.
I recognize the responsibility that I have in the influencing of young minds. This is bewildering, exciting and frightening. I know they watch me and see my faults, but they seem to love me anyway, and I’m humbled. I work at stretching their minds open to new views, both about their art and about life in general. I never liked fitting into the crowd and I try to encourage them to not only find the courage to express their artistic visions but to also embrace being unique, as a person. I want them to PUSH their blacks in charcoal and PUSH their imagination. My critiques are hard, but my love for them runs deep and they know it.
I used to have a button in college that I wore on my backpack. It said, “I Want It All”. I wanted every experience I could fit into a lifetime. I used to say I want to be a parent, but I don’t only want to be a parent. I wanted to try my hand at different jobs; be with different kinds of people. I’ve been known to get bored easily and look for the next new thing. I’ve loved teaching and it would be easy to stay where I am. I’m so comfortable and my blanket of security is warm. But, life is moving at a fast pace and I want to PUSH these remaining seasons of my life.
In April 2007, I was looking through a professional art educator magazine called, School Arts. There was an article that captivated me and was written by a woman named Melissa Enderle. In Teaching Art Abroad, Melissa wrote of her experiences of teaching art overseas in international schools. I ran to the photocopier to copy her words and have thought of little else since that day. Melissa is an artist and an art educator. Her artwork can be seen at her website. She also keeps a blog where she chronicles her daily experiences. Since that time, I have contacted Melissa about the possibility of my teaching art overseas like she does. She is a great encourager and has openly provided honest answers to my many questions. I’ve also done hours of research about working with a variety of educational recruitment firms. Now that my daughter is about to graduate from college and begin her adult life, I decided it’s about time I began mine too.
Melissa and I both agree that teaching abroad is a way to experience the world’s people in a personal manner that will change lives. Not only would I hope to influence my students and allow them to see a glimpse of what I know, I know that they, too, would teach me. Together, we would learn and the planet wouldn’t seem quite so large.
Is there someone who has influenced you in your career direction? I can’t wait to hear! Please comment.