If you had asked me as a little girl about what I wanted to be when I grew up I probably would have responded with “an Artist or Veterinarian”. Making art and interacting with creatures has always been a passion of mine. Not much has changed!
Now, if you had told my teenage self that in the future I would be a teacher, I probably would have looked at you with a confused expression. Being one of the quietest girls in school, I could be found working endlessly on my many art projects and avoiding having to speak in class. I was drawn to art is because it provided a way of expressing my individuality and talents, but in a way that was safe to me.
I could look at an object sitting in front of me and recreate it in my sketchbook. Or I could take something entirely from my imagination and make it come to life on a canvas. I could even take some clay and some scrap materials and pretty soon there would be a weird and wonderful creature sitting in front of me. I did this for myself because it was what I loved to do.
Art gave me a chance to shine when I was so compelled to fade into the background.
Despite my shyness, I always liked to challenge myself. Whenever I felt nervous, “Just do something that scares you every day” was what I repeatedly told myself. Sometimes I felt like the most scared brave person in the world. Other times I felt like most brave scared person. Somehow I managed to intertwine being nervous, yet having the desire to do well and not letting my fears stop me.
There was never a question that I loved art, but it took me a long time to consider teaching. As a teen, it never crossed my mind that I might step from behind that desk to the front of the classroom. Yet, here I stand as a first year teacher! Let’s take a few steps back to see where I started.
I vividly remember the second thoughts running through my mind the day before my first practicum. I was preparing for my first art lesson to 34 Grade 9 students and panic set in. Having a vivid imagination, it was like all the possible negative scenarios rolled through my mind like a bad movie. I don’t think I even slept. The next morning, I got up, drove to the school and bravely gave my lesson, which I still cringe to think about.
This was so out of my comfort zone. I thought maybe I should just go back behind my watercolour paper and my paints, maybe that is where I belong. But I had this nagging feeling that I couldn’t just give up and that maybe I have something valuable to learn or share with continuing this path.
The course of my whole first practicum had to have been one of the most challenging and stressful times for me, as I tried to shift roles from being student to teacher. I wanted so much to be perfect, but I couldn’t be.
With paint, when you mix yellow and blue, you know you will always create green. I know that I can create depth on a page in the way that I apply specific colours. This is what I do; it’s what I know.
But, with teaching, you may plan meticulously and for dozens of different reasons, the outcome is completely different than you had imagined. Here were 34 individuals, all with different personalities and needs, and who knew what they were going to do! It made me feel very uncertain. But, it was time for me to step back and realize that all the mistakes, awkward moments, and feelings of uncertainty were only small blips within the larger picture. It was all a part of the process of becoming a teacher.
Am I ever glad that I stayed put and showed up day after day, willing to try again.
My second practicum I felt a change happening I was becoming more confident, and better able to connect with students. I was letting my mistakes roll off my back and seeing every day as an opportunity to try something new.
I am proud to say that I have my first teaching job and that I truly love it. The things that I love about my job are not always the things that I would have expected. I quickly realized I am not here only to train artists. Every day I see these kids they show me what it means to be a teacher. Patience, empathy, and flexibility, to name a few. I can see reflections of myself in some of the students and I know what they need to be successful and to feel cared about. Then I have other students who are like puzzles and challenging, but equally wonderful. Of course, some days I need to remind myself of that.
I like to think that teaching is an art and right now I’m a novice. I have so much to learn and I often worry that I could be doing more. Maybe one day I’ll make it to Da Vinci status, or maybe just Stephanie level. All I know is that I will bravely continue teaching and creating my own artwork, for myself, my students, and everyone around me.
I smile, thinking of the surprised look on my fourteen year old self if I were to tell her that not only am I an artist, but also a high school teacher. I imagine thinking she would be a little bit proud.