Recently, there has been increased dialog in my life concerning the struggles of being an art teacher and art creation. At a recent inservice, we had a session entitled “Art Making” designed solely for art teachers. I attended and had a very revealing conversation with many art teachers. We discussed the reasons why we are not creating art for ourselves (a few: we pour into students every day and end up exhausted at the end of it all, we spend more time planning lessons than thinking artistic thoughts, we are tired, we clean more than we create, we are tired) and we discussed how to carve time out for our own art creation. We talked about how our art tends to look like our students’ art, how we leave projects unfinished and how many of us long for college days of carrying around portfolios with art materials. Several of us were almost in tears.
However, I do not want to stop there. My art may look more like the art of my K-5th grade classes, but there is a fresh-ness that comes from teaching elementary school as well that I can tap into (not many artists can say that). Teachers work hard. The librarian and I were discussing our long hours yesterday. I commented that I was leaving Friday afternoon on time because I had worked a nine hour day yesterday. She commented that she normally works twelve hour days. I looked at her and realized, is this something we really want to be proud of? As a teacher, it is easy to want to be perfect, to work longer hours than the next person, to have the perfect lesson, perfect class…and now, to work even harder because our salaries depend upon showing student growth. Yet…where do we get this notion to work ourselves into the ground? Internationally, we work more than most countries in the United States (exceptions being several Asian countries), and yet many of the greatest artists of the past have emerged from the more laid back European lifestyle. What does it benefit me to work so hard that areas of my life that I love suffer? Where can I find the rest that I need as a teacher to rejuvenate myself and resultantly be a more productive artist and successful teacher by default. Showing growth is important to the government, but if I am vibrant and love my students and what I do, what is not to say that all those areas will not increase as well.
What I am asking/proposing, is that I carve more time out for myself and make art a priority. I may not be ‘Teacher of the Year’ or artist of the year…BUT, life is way too short for the worries and cares to consume my day. I want to spend time appreciating life, art, my family, my friends, my students. I want to create more, breathe more, forgive myself more and laugh more.
As an artist, teacher or other soul looking to grasp more time for yourself and what you love, what suggestions do you have, reader?
One suggestion was to look at time management and the following diagram was given to us to fill out, it was very revealing to me (I work 50% of my day).
Another suggestion was to journal daily. Online there are several daily art challenges and websites dedicated to these thoughts.
As we consider this thought, I am off to create a painting for an upcoming show! May creativity and bliss fill your morning!