Sunday, October 17, 2010

Teaching through Art

I don't know if it's just me or how I was raised, but I think about my career a lot.  I spent a lot of time in high school and college contemplating my future and the best way to get there.  While I was incredibly active in both, I always felt that the experiences were just stepping stones to something that would come later.

I always knew I would need to make a living for myself, so I tried to take as much advantage of every experience as I could...  I'd grown up in a family of teachers, and so education was a big part of my required preparation for whatever career I was going to have.  I think I gravitated toward a career in education because that was what I was familiar with, so everything I pursued or tried was framed by that context.  I just knew I was going to be a teacher.  I looked forward to it, and I couldn't wait until I had my first teaching position.

Along the way, my life changed a bit... I realized I was not going to be a good fit as a teacher in a high school--especially in the Midwest where I grew up.  I shifted my goals toward teaching higher education at the college level.

And eventually I got that job.  And I taught for 10 years.  And the experience was not what I thought it was going to be...  I enjoyed the classroom, yes, but I didn't care for the faculty politics that came with it.  10 years in the same position as a part-timer doing a full-time job, 6 different faculty chairs with as many different pedagogical agendas, and a knack for doing the impossible so regularly it became part of my job description...  I ended up feeling quite used and abused.  A radical change in my position's job description and responsibilities provided the impetus to finally say enough was enough and move on.

So that's where I find myself today: Using the subset of professional sewing and design skills I developed so I could acquire a teaching position at the university level.  And I find that rather ironic--usually in theatrical education it's the other way around!  Normally, a professor gains experience in the "real world" and then brings it to the academic realm to share--thus proving one has credibility and knowledge.  But I rushed into it the other way...

And now that I'm on the outside, I'm finding that I can still be a teacher without needing a classroom.  I still have things to share, but I don't need to do it within an academic structure.  My challenge now is to do it with my art just by itself.  I won't have the advantage of a lecture or a student apprentice--I need to somehow make my expressions mean something and say something without the advantage of footnotes or endnotes...

So that's where I find myself today.  I'm struggling to find a way to articulate what I'm feeling about the relationship between Women and Fairy Tales, Fashion and Wearable Art.  I think I'm on the verge of making a discovery, but it's perpetually just on the end of my tongue but not out of my mouth...  Or my brain...  It's a similar feeling to giving a lecture and not having the perfect example or set of words that makes everything clear.

And what does that tell me?  That I haven't explored my topics enough.  It's one thing to simply regurgitate information, but quite another to form a thesis statement and support it through evidence.  I'm betting that spending some time investigating my topics in a bit more depth will help me coalesce some thoughts that will guide me toward a strong artistic expression and relevant creative commentary with it.

One thing about being a teacher:  it helps you find out what you don't know.  It therefore makes one more capable even as one teaches the subject at hand.  Each time, the act of teaching actually teaches the teacher as much as the student, but in a different way.  I learned how much I need to learn by teaching for 10 years, and now I have to step up and do some self-informing.  So I can be a better teacher by being a better artist.


Okay, until next time, Live Life with Relish!

Image by Seth Sawyers, sidewalk flying, Creative Commons License.

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