On my prep today I searched for some books on teaching art, and came across an article entitled Four Types of Art Teachers for Talented Art Students, written by Jeffery Carr. The description for the article reads:
Unfortunately the database this is in wouldn't allow me to read the article in full. Boo. But, while sitting in an hour's worth of traffic to and from the dentist this afternoon, I thought about this description and wrote the rest of the article myself. Out loud. In my car. So here it is, transcribed for your viewing pleasure:
I've given the idea of "types" of art teachers a lot of thought since getting hired three years ago. Unfortunately, about 97% of the amazing blogs I read about teaching are are written by elementary art teachers. This is wonderful, because I love to read about their experiences and ideas- in fact, a lot of the projects they use inspire me. It's just that I wish there were more high school art teachers out there writing about their trials and triumphs. Anyway, my point is that when you're an elementary art teacher, you're usually the only one for your school- and sometimes, the only one for several schools. Working in a high school, as one part of a 15 member department, you get to meet all "types" of art teachers.
1. The First-Rate Artist - Or who I like to refer to as the Artist who became a Teacher. Also, the "Once Starving Artist." This is the artist who tried to make it in the "real world", but didn't learn enough before leaving the field and trying to teach others. They're arrogant, stubborn and close-minded. They're living in the past and bring their negative energy into the classrooms where they "teach". They're the kind of people who talk and talk and talk your ear off all about what their work is about, and who their work is for, and why they do what they do and all the while you want to grab your hair and scream out, "If you were that good, you wouldn't be here!!!"
2. The Exponent of a System - These are the Teachers who happen to be Artists. These people grew up with the ability and want to show others. Show them what? Show them anything! They liked being helpful, and were good at leading group activities. They delegated responsibility and encouraged others to do their best. Whether it was art or spelling or history, they wanted to help others understand things. Teachers who happen to be Artists realize the importance of teaching theory and meaning to their students- because, let's be real: not every kid you teach will move on to continue with art. Your job is to make sure they learn something and have fun while they're with you, and that's what you do. These teachers love art for art's sake and inspire their students to try new things.
3. The Inspired Lover who Communicates Enthusiasm and Intuitive Appreciation - This is Mr. McAndrews. Oh, you don't know Mr. McAndrews? Well, I'm sorry for you. Mr. McAndrews was my high school Ceramics teacher (who just retired this year). He was the most enthusiastic, passionate, fun-loving, energetic art teacher I've ever had. Walking into his class was like watching Liza Minnelli front row center. He had an incredible way of teaching without ever giving tests or having his kids take notes. The reason I remember how important it is to wedge your clay, is because every time Mr. McAndrews talked about it, he'd mime giving the nearest student a wedgie. The reason I remember how dangerous the pugmill was, is because he kept a machete hanging just above the emergency stop button, you know, "in case you start getting sucked in and I have to be a hero!" Mr. McAndrews taught me how important it was to value your work, because when he graded you, he asked what you thought you deserved, and if you could explain to him why you deserved an A, that's what you got. If you were modest and asked for a B, that's what you got. And if you were arrogant and asked for an A, but deserved a D, he'd give you a D and explain to you that you needed to step it up, or he'd start playing Cher during class again. (He also played a lot of Jazz and would routinely ask, 'Who doesn't love some sax? Everyone loves sax. Sax is good for you, you know. Keeps you young! Oh you don't like sax? Trust me, one day you will!')
4. The Nurturer of Young Talent - This is the teacher who may not have their own collection of fantastical works, who may not be the most technically skilled artist in the world, but who has an amazing, incredible gift of recognizing the abilities and strengths in each student, and using that to build up their self confidence not only in art, but in everything. They know the right things to say and when to say them. They know how to guide them.
In closing, I'd like to leave you with a montage of my favorite art teacher: Mr. Jellineck. That's right- the Mr. Jellineck, of Strangers With Candy. Some days, we all feel like Mr. Jellineck.