And Now For Something Completely Different?

“When I was in school…..”

“When I was in school, my parents would have NEVER come to Varney to jump on the teacher.”

“When I was in school, we were allowed to have recess all through elementary, kindergarten through 8th grade.”

“When I was in school, I never knew my grade until the report card came home.”

“When I was in school, even the “bad” kids weren’t THIS bad.”

“When I was in school, it was very, VERY, different.”

Going into Education as a profession was one of my best decisions by far. After floundering in the Electrical Engineering program at UK, taking a random Art class (you know, to balance out the science/math heavy course load) set me on a path that has been been rewarding and, at times, frustrating. Now in my 6th year as an Art teacher, I really can’t see myself in any other field and I’ve never really tried to see myself as anything but “Ms. G.”

After what I saw today, I’m becoming more willing to broaden my outlook.

While looking through my Facebook news feed, I came across a friend’s post defending teachers. Her post was in response to a video posted by a student/student’s parent of a teacher at a local school jumping on to her class. Being a teacher, I was immediately interested. I read her statement, agreed with her, and proceeded to read the comments. Among the comments was a link to the video itself.
Normally, I wouldn’t view it. If it’s not Star Wars/Doctor Who/Bradley recommended, I don’t watch it – mainly because I know I’ll get upset. Knowing this video had to be of a teacher I am friends with, I wanted to see what had caused all the fuss. All the teachers I worked with at that school are great, love their kiddos, and go above and beyond the call of duty – this teacher is no exception!
The video, really audio, of the teacher calling her students out for not working, is not the worse thing I’ve ever heard. Based on the comments, some people heard a woman, in their opinion, unjustly addressing her students for their poor scores. I heard a woman frustrated at her class and trying to find something, anything, to motivate them.

I’ve been there and I sympathize.

Part of me wants to rail against the world judging this woman. This woman I know works long hours, dedicates so much of her own time to helping kids, and, like many of us, tries to instill some sense of self-motivation in our students. I also recognize that my righteous indignation won’t matter to those too ignorant to see beyond the “no one talks to my baby that way” attitude that teachers see more often than not.

Teachers are, in fact, people. They have breaking points, frustrations, and bad days like everyone else. Except, unlike other people, we are expected not to have those days. If we have a bad day, we are somehow bad teachers/people. If you don’t believe teachers feel that way themselves when a day goes south, you are talking to the wrong teacher….or a teacher who has given everything only to be disheartened.

When I was in school….

I love my job. I love working with students and seeing them grow as artists and as people. Seeing a kiddo get excited about learning – glob! – nothing beats that. It’s amazing to watch and be a part of.

Daily I worry that I have not hit the right balance between understanding and stern. Some days are harder than others, and I have, at times, mentioned to students that their lack of effort is how they earn the grade they get, whether it’s an A or a F is all on them.

It’s hard to see students not care as much as you do. It is frustrating to say the least. Add on to that the threats to your career by angry kids/parents, the constant fear of having what you do in school twisted or taken out of context, and the fact that the standard you are held to as a teacher is so high, yet we are one of the least respected professions. It feels like you are always on the defensive and I can be a bit much.

All it takes is one word and that is it. Pitchforks out, set the torches alight, off with their head – let’s not ask the real question: why aren’t we concerned about students willfully bombing a class and not being shamed by the fact that they were called out on it?! Another question to address is why, if you felt the teacher was in the wrong (an opinion you are entitled to of course), why post this video on a social media site? Why not take it to the school, talk to the teacher and administration, and deal with the issue instead of posting it without the context of what brought it on – because, let’s be honest, something did. Why are we okay with a student taping a teacher when that student is obviously in class AND does not seem to be paying attention at all?

No wonder she is frustrated! She’s trying to strike some chord with them, and a student is more concerned with taping her with the obvious intention of hurting her career. Granted, I could be wrong about the intent , but posting the video to a social media site doesn’t really seem like the most legit way to deal with the situation if you didn’t want to embarrass/professionally harm the teacher in question.

This incident is just the latest of several that have made me worry about my choice of profession – something I never thought I’d be concerned about. I worry not because I think I made the wrong choice or because I think I’m a bad teacher. Completely the opposite! I KNOW teaching is what I should be doing. I KNOW that I’m good at what I do, but I’m always willing to learn and grow in my profession. I KNOW that I mess up, but, in my work and in my personal life, I can admit to, and learn, from my mistakes and move forward. I KNOW I’m exactly where I need to be, doing what I need to do.

I would just like to do my job to the best of my ability without constantly stepping on eggshells.

I can’t make people like me. I can’t force students to work. All I hope is that, at the end of the day, I make a positive impact on my students’ lives. That is it – that makes it all worth while and why, despite my fears, I will teach.
I will do my absolute best, and give it all I’ve got. I will do this because it is totally worth it for those kiddos that get something from it.

“You know, when I was in school, my teachers didn’t worry about the same things I have to.”

As a student, I am so thankful for that.

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Ready for School? Not Really

A student of mine that is in college did this portrait of me - it cheers me up. Thank you Brandon

It’s been a crazy week for me. I’ve been thrown into “back to school” mode due to a recent re-hire (last minute as usual), and I’m so excited to know I’ll be working with my kids another year. It’s hard being a teacher anyways, but when you teach Art your job feels as if it is always in flux. Due to funding cuts, other teachers that could teach your subject within their own, and testing requirements that schools have to meet, one can just never really know where they are going to be when one is not tenured.

This is where the test of Errant Easel will be for me. I’ll need to make sure I allow time for myself to be creative in another outlet other than teaching. I find myself already caught in a never ending search for one more interesting video to round out future lesson plans not even written while at the same time having an idea for an artwork and putting it off. I’ve decided for myself that life is too short to just focus on one area of it.

That happened to me before when I first got out of school. Work took over and by the end of it all, everything suffered for lack of differentiation. I can’t just worry about work because all the other areas will falter and I won’t be the teacher, or person, I want to be. A more holistic approach to life, career, and even love is better for me. If one area is ignored the other areas suffer. Believe me it’s not an intentional thing, it sorta just happens.

Too often it seems that we continually put off saying something or doing something because we can do it tomorrow. Now, I’m not talking about not getting milk or mowing the yard. In my own life it seems as if decisions get put off, dreams get put off, life itself gets put off because tomorrow sounds better than possibly being upset today. I hate that I’m guilty of that. I’m going to do my best to change that way of thinking in myself. If I think I’ll be a better teacher for it, I KNOW I’ll be a better fiance’ for it, a better daughter and sister for it – I’ll just be a better person for it. If things don’t work out the way I would like, it won’t be for lack of trying. This is a promise to myself and a hope for a great school year all wrapped in a confusing ball, but it’s been a confusing day or so.

When I started this blog, I had no intention of getting too deep or rambling on. A quick note about school starting and my getting ready to do it and make Art. While I was working, I found out a student of mine had passed away. He was going to be a freshman in high school this year. Now, I didn’t know him very well, but we had a really good nine weeks together. I thought he was funny and hated seeing him waste his potential by being a goof off and staying in trouble. I don’t even know really what happened to him, and won’t until I go to his visitation, but it doesn’t matter. He’s gone, and that’s all I can think about. My mind doesn’t just stop there though. It goes from how sad it is that he is gone, to how sad it is so many people I know are gone. Then I feel bad because this is a lesson I re-learn each time someone I care about dies and I can’t seem to retain it: life is precious and not a given, make the most of each day.

So here I am – sad for a life gone and afraid of a life wasted. I hate that my other kids (students) are upset and I can’t help them. There is really nothing I can say, but I can be there if they need me. Hopefully I’ll learn the lesson and not dwell on the bad things, of varying degrees, that happen throughout the day. I’ll remember that tomorrow’s not given as a promise, but as a possibility. I’ll just remember that everything has importance, it’s about choosing what’s the most important to you and being balanced. There is too much to think about now, and if I let it have a toehold, I can’t stop myself from crying.