Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Love/Hate Relationship

I know. I know. I know. If you read this blog, you know I have bitched and moaned about my day job. It isn’t really about not loving what I do. I think my discomfort is more about being frustrated because I can't do what I WANT to do full time.
I suppose it could be worse. Actually, I am luckier than many. I teach emotionally disturbed students in a special education school. I started teaching through the back door. Way back in the day, I got a call to teach in the Pontiac School System. They didn’t have art teachers. They wanted to have an artist-in-residence program to make up for the lack of art in the everyday curriculum. I signed up and did the job. That was many years ago. I didn’t want to teach. I never did. I got paid. That was enough.
After this experience, I went on to teach at a private school and at the college level. I loved both jobs. However, I was more than devastated when my college jobs were cut. I was devastated. Yes. I was devastated.
After being cut for economic reasons from the last college position, I moved to Florida. I had absolutely no intention of teaching ANYTHING. I hated it. I hated it. Did you hear me? I hate teaching. Yet for some weird, bizarre turn of events, I was hired to teach in the public school system. I wasn’t even certified! I had never had an education class in my life. Yet, I was hired.
Of course, I had to GET certified. I did. In fact, I got certified in a few areas. I did this because it offered security, health insurance, and a retirement plan. Yet, I still hate it in some ways. However, it is wonderful all at the same time. Since, I teach at a special education school it is very unique and special. I love this population. Also, the classes are smaller, albeit more violent and disruptive.
OK..yep….I have had to deal with that for 15 years. YES!! I have been there for 15 years. I have no idea how I lasted so long. I did though. Today, a colleague snapped this pic of me working with a student. This child is 6 years old and has the developmental skills of a 2 year old. Oh no, he is not mentally retarded or anything like that. The reason he is behind is because he has not developed the simple skills most children get when they are toddlers. Nope. For some reason(?)(No comment), he has not been given the simple lessons of preschool life. No No NO! He is still a baby. He is struggling to figure out the world. I am helping him do that with things like clay and various media. BTW. I HATE clay too. However, I learned a long time ago, you gotta do what you gotta do. Boy! Is that the truth!!! LOL LOL LOL

This is the distillate. I look at this picture and realize why I have hung around at my lame “day job”. It isn’t lame at all. It serves a purpose. I am so good at what I do. I am leaving a trail of breadcrumbs. Yep, you can follow me! There are human beings from my past teaching experiences living all kinds of lives right now. Sometime there will be moments when they remember our experiences together. I know this for sure. I already have older kids come to my art room and say “REMEMBER WHEN WE DID….”
Yep. I already have a legacy.


gilda said...

you are wonderful


Savy said...

Did you ever consider that you are creating art in the children themselves? You are still an artist 100%, just a different medium at that point during the day.

I hear you on the teaching though. I dodge and weave from those "opportunities" too, but every now and then you get caught. That whole "starving artist" thing sounds a lot more romantic and wonderful than it really is. ;)

Martha Marshall said...

I think maybe the down side of teaching is having to show up every day no matter what and smile even if you don't feel like smiling. And do what you can to help even just one child that day.

My mother taught all her adult life. This picture and your words remind me of being out places with my mother after I became an adult, and having people my age stop us in a restaurant or on the street corner and tell her about some great memory they had about their little window of time with her.

self taught artist said...

i dont normally do this but i've given you an award
you are a force and i'm glad you are out there!

Sheree Rensel said...

Gilda. Thank you for the wonderful compliment. As you know from recent emails, I don't feel so wonderful right now. Maybe I am just burnt out. Maybe I am going crazy. Maybe, maybe, maybe, who knows? Hopefully when summer break comes I will snap back into reality or at least function in some manner that resembles sanity.
P.S. You are wonderful too!! :-)

Sheree Rensel said...

Oh Savy! If you knew me better, you would realize I am very aware of the "starving artist" lifestyle. Back in the day, my baby daughter and I lived in a ghetto apartment with roaches and so many mice you had to beat the couch cushions before you sat down! SERIOUSLY!! I made a lot of "found object" art back then. Also, I would raid people's garages for old latex paint. My daughter and I would go for walks looking for soda cans. We actually would buy groceries with our "take" that day. Oh I know about the starving artist life. That is why I teach now. Also, I DO know I have had an effect on many, many lives. I do know that. Thanks for your insight.

Sheree Rensel said...

Martha, I think you are right. I have been thinking about this a lot lately. Many of my art teaching jobs of the past were maybe 2 or 3 times a week. This 15 year gig is a 24/7 operation. I am burning out. I think if I was a TEACHER, I could handle it. However, trying to teach and do art all at the same time is making me feel like I am burning the candle at both ends. It is finally getting to me.
Yes, I have been having students come up to me and tell me about our experiences together for years now. That is one of the nice things about teaching. With these kids I teach now, it is rare to get positive feedback because that is part of their emotional problems. They don't have the capacity to appreciate. Nor do their parents even think twice about what is going on, let alone give any kind of thumbs up. I know I have made an impact. I really do. However, that knowledge just doesn't make me feel less fried at the moment.

Sheree Rensel said...

Thank you for your award. I left you a message on your blog.
P.S. I am over my head in work right now. I am not reading any blogs for the next few weeks. I can hardly find time to write my own blog. I will investigate your blog in a few weeks when school lets out. This is the first time I knew you even had a blog.

nikole said...

Sheree -- I am so frustrated at not being able to comment on your blog. I have written at least twice and nothing appears. I went to your web page and wrote you there. Nothing. How? Why? If this one works I will not understand anything.

Sheree Rensel said...

Nikole, I am so sorry you have had problems commenting. I have no control over that. I am not sure why you are having problems. The only thing I can suggest is if you don't have a Google/Blogger account make sure you click "ANONYMOUS" before entering your comment. Of course, you can always sign your name to the end of your post. Also, make sure you put the word identification letters in correctly. Other than that, I have no clue why you might be having difficulty. This comment came through loud and clear. So something must be right.
Thanks for your comment!!
Oh P.S. If you ever want to send me a comment and it doesn't work, you are more than welcome to email me at:

anabellster said...

I'm studying to be an art teacher right now. I'm currently student teaching. I like it okay, but I do wish I could make a living on just making art. If I could, that's what I would do. For the most part though, I enjoy the students. I havne't been around a lot of special needs students, but when I am, I find that I haven't really had a lot of instruction to understand how to work with them. It's frustrating!

Don't feel lonely. . . I hate clay as well! I'm just not very good with it. :)

Great blog. :)

If you would like to do a link exchange or anything, let me know, if not, no worries. :)

Sheree Rensel said...

Ana, Gee, I hope you start to enjoy teaching because you have a long road ahead. I think part of my problem is I have been teaching in one shape or form since 1980. I think I am just burnt out. As far as not understanding special needs kids, this is not uncommon. I have mentored art teachers for years at other school and tried to help them understand various behaviors. It was wise for me to get the double certification in both art and special education. Also, it has helped that I have worked at this special ed school for the past 15 years. I have experience teaching just about any kind of human being at this point.
Like I suggested on another comment, I am not reading blogs at this moment due to time constraints. However, I will enjoy reading your blog when summer begins. Thanks for the comment!!