I Was a High School Art Teacher Once
Not the Most Fun I’ve Ever Had
I was a high school art teacher once. You would think that would be right up my alley, teaching art. It wasn’t. As in…at all. It was in fact, painfully unfulfilling for me and utterly disappointing. Teaching in general is probably one of the most underappreciated and unsupported professions around. Why? The answer is simple. Nobody cares. The majority of the students don’t care, the school boards don’t care, and the parents don’t care. In fact, the parents think you should be raising their children. They take no responsibility in their children’s education at all.
It’s Hard to Care When the Parents Don’t Seem To
And for art teachers? Well, students take electives like art because they think it will be an easy A. I got called into far too many IEP meetings than I care to remember. Mom and dad are upset because Johnny is failing art class. They’re demanding to know why. “Well, Johnny isn’t turning in any of his assignments, that’s why,” I inform them. “If he doesn’t turn anything in, I have nothing to grade.” They tell me Johnny’s excuse is the work area is too crowded for him to get anything done. “My classroom is open before school starts, during lunch, and after school for an additional hour, during which time, there isn’t anyone in my room. The work area is wide open.” Then there’s the silence. “Can I go back to my classroom now?” I ask.
Excuses. Being a high school art teacher, you hear them all from the students. You don’t expect to hear them from the parents, too, but there you have it. The apple doesn’t fall far, I suppose. I gave quizzes and warned them that the quizzes were different, so not to bother cheating off of their neighbor. Do you think they listened? I’d get the quizzes back and Johnny gets every answer wrong. Why? Because his answers correspond to the quiz belonging to the student sitting next to him. He flat out denies cheating until I show him side by side the two different quizzes I handed out. His response? A rather lame and idiotic sounding, “Oh.” I reminded him that I told them at the beginning not to bother cheating because the quizzes were different. He said he didn’t think I was serious. *SIGH*
It Wasn’t Cheap
A lot of the supplies used in class came out of my own pocket money. The school didn’t provide them. Grading papers and projects was on my own time. I also happened to be the yearbook advisor and there were nights that we were at school until 10:00 pm in order to meet a publishing deadline. Again, that was on my time.
Being a high school art teacher definitely left a bad taste in my mouth for the profession. And I honestly don’t know how people do it for thirty years. They must really be a special breed and I thank the powers that be for them because I sure as heck couldn’t handle it. I quit after my second year and never looked back.
I Guess Times Have Changed
It was a shocking experience for me because my parents were completely involved in our education. My mother, without any teaching credentials, taught all of us kids how to read by the time we were three years old. And, we weren’t just reading. We were comprehending what we were reading and we were writing, and writing well, all before we even got to kindergarten. (She never sent us to preschool) She also taught my niece how to read by three and by the time she was five, she had read and re-read the first three Harry Potter books on her own. My dad was the disciplinarian if we didn’t measure up with our grades. We didn’t get to make excuses. Supporting his family was his responsibility and school was our responsibility. So it was totally shocking for me as a teacher to see how disengaged parents are from what their kids do in school.
It isn’t that I didn’t like teaching art. It would be fun if your students wanted to be there and if they actually wanted to learn and create. I still consider it from time to time, but not in a school setting. I think if I were to teach again, it would be one on one private lessons, or maybe after school in a completely off-site studio classroom where kids come because they’re interested in learning art. I’ve also considered volunteering my time at centers for senior citizens. College students might be fun to work with too, but I’d need a higher degree for that and this kid ain’t goin’ back to school to rack up more student loan debt!