July 16, 2012

why I became an art teacher (pt. 1)

We all have our own stories.
How we got where we are. 
How we became who we are.
This is mine.
I remember the day I knew I wanted to be an artist.

I was riding in the backseat of our family car tracing pictures out of a Garfield comic book. Tracing. Certainly not an original move, but for the six-year-old that I was it might as well have been the Mona Lisa. My dad thought so too. I remember him telling me what a good artist I was. That is my first memory where I remember being acknowledged for being creative...that was all it took...and I knew.

the competition
If you have a sibling you can attest to the fact that everything is a competition. That is beyond true for my sister and me. Rebekah is two years my senior and the mirror image of myself. I wanted to beat her in everything, but mostly, I just wanted to be her. As the younger sister I grew up with the reality that she got to do everything first. In some cases, this was amazing. I learned what not to do to get by. In most cases, this was a cruel reality. I had to wait for prom dress shopping, driving a car, getting a cell phone, going to college, etc. Rebekah knew this too. And as a big sister, she used that to her advantage when we were in elementary. Elementary school is where I first declared I wanted to be an art teacher. Rebekah retorted that since she would get a job first, she was going to be the art teacher. She would take any job that I wanted. This was the war that ultimately led me to tears, knowing that she was right, and led mom to say, "She is just trying to get your goat." It worked. 

the substitute
We've all had good and bad teachers. The good ones make you want to become a teacher just so you can be like them. The bad ones make you want to become a teacher just so you can do it better than them. Because elementary school seems like a foggy picture when I try to remember it in my head I can't tell you whether the following was actually my art teacher or a long term substitute, but I am going to go with the latter. Despite not being able to remember who she was, I do remember what she did. And to my young little mind, it was not art. It was a worksheet with geometric shapes on it. All we did the whole art class was trace around them. I left frustrated. I had seemingly graduated from my tracing days and wanted art class to be spent creating something, not copying something. I can reflect back now and bestow her some grace. But my thought after that day was, "I can do this better."

the teacher
Like I said, some teachers make you want to become a teacher just so you can be like them. That was the case by the time I reached junior high. I loved art so much by that point I did anything to be in that classroom with her. I somehow convinced the Vice-Principal to allow me to take art in 7th and 8th grade although you were technically only allowed to take that elective once. Certainly I must have sang to him or played an instrument to prove that my strengths were clearly in the art room. By the time I was in high school it was my favorite hour of the day. I even elected to bypass trigonometry (imagine that!) just so I could continue my education in the art room via yearbook staff. This teacher made me want to be an art teacher--made me want to do art. When graduation came though, I denied my heart and went a different direction.

Stay tuned this week for the 5-part story.


  1. Can't wait to hear what comes next!

  2. I still became a teacher first... :)~

  3. I, too, had those English teachers who either inspired me to be like them or (sometimes more importantly) made me realize I could do it better. That's how I responded to my senior AP English Lit teacher...I can remember saying that I could do it better. And I did. :)