Friday, August 8, 2014

Why I Chose Teaching

Sometimes I write things down. Below is my statement of purpose for a program I'm applying to:
Above it is a new self portrait piece I'm working on. I've been working on the drawing and the essay simultaneously.  

I can recall painting a picture for a book report on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when I was 12. I used the watercolor I got for christmas from my uncle that year. I was surprised how easily the paint did what I wanted it to do. Up until that point I had only really used pencils in my little purple sketchbook. I enjoyed being in my little art space; a walk-in closet my mother and I cleared out. I managed to finish just in time for bed before my favorite Fleetwood Mac CD repeated for the 5th time. With excitement I scooted down the hall to seek my mother’s opinion; she was a successful artist and designer, though sadly a few years shy of having a mental breakdown. To my delight, she said “you’ve got the eye sweetie”. That was one of the first moments that I knew for sure I wanted to be an artist one day. 

Fast forward 5 years. Almost 18, I was enrolled in as many art classes as my high school would allow. It was the make or break moment.  I had a deadline to apply to one of the top art schools in the country:Rhode Island School of Design. I couldn’t take any more nights at home without dinner; or the yelling, or taking care of my sick mother. To me, RISD was my ticket to freedom.  

The art room was one of the only places I felt comfortable and safe. I felt like a kid instead of a parent.  My art teacher came to my easel often to check on my progress. Ms. L was not only my art teacher, but my mentor and inspiration. Ms. L wasn’t unrealistic. She knew that getting into RISD was no easy feat, so she pushed me to my limits. In fact, she went above and beyond “the call of duty”; taking me to gallery openings, signing me up for competitions, and getting my work in the local newspaper. In April of that year I got my acceptance letter to RISD and a generous scholarship to boot.  In my gratefulness I made a cake that spelled out RISD to break the good news to Ms. L the next day. Not only was she absolutely proud, but excited for me, and before I graduated, Ms. L and my other teachers surprised me with supplies for my first year at RISD. Their package had everything; paints, books, charcoal, erasers, chisels, gift cards. You name it and it was there. There were so many that I still have some left over to this day! It was the most generous thing anybody had every done for me. The world looked bright and new.

Two years ago, after I discovered my mother killed herself, something began to change in me. It took a few months to realize: I had been living in a way that I thought would make everyone but myself happy, and happiness equated to large paychecks, and high profile, impressive jobs.  I was so proud to have snagged one of those very jobs that I couldn’t notice how miserable I really was.  I was designing and illustrating art for children’s guitars and instruments, but every day a little more of my heart was not in it.  It’s what I had majored in at RISD. I was “successful”- making loads of money. But I hated it; where had my love for art gone? When I saw the ad for the teaching position I have now, I was hesitant to take the leap, but I took a chance and within my first week teaching there I was hooked. I haven’t looked back.

So, my contribution to art education will be a simple one; to care as deeply and unselfishly as Ms. L cared for me. To go above and beyond my job description. To take my life experiences and turn them into positivity for my students. To make art approachable, but respected. To engage them in conversation and discussion that stays with them for years to come. To show them how to exercise their creative brain muscles, and passion in their hearts. I will teach them about art and life. As one of the greatest art teachers of America, Robert Henri once said “Art is the giving by each man of his evidence to the world. Those who wish to give, love to give, discover the pleasure of giving. Those who give are tremendously strong”. I plan to give it all I’ve got.

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