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Career Transition: From Artist to Art Teacher

Career Transition: From Artist to Art Teacher

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I have been working as an art teacher for the past two years. I work in a public middle school. Since art is an elective course, my classes contain students from every grade.

I take care to ensure that the projects I assign are interesting to students of varying levels of maturity and commitment to schoolwork. In the past I have attempted to teach my classes about the history of art, but it is incredibly hard to reach students on an intellectual level when my classes are full of students from different grades and achievement brackets.

As fascinating as I find art history to be, I made the decision to focus solely on the process of creation in my transition from artist to art teacher.

On a scale of one to ten I would rate my job satisfaction as a nine. I am generally very happy with my job. Every now and then the early work hours and crowded hallway environment become overwhelming, and the way arts programs are being cut nationwide has caused me some anxiety.

I do not like the way some parents blame teachers for not being more lenient with children who do not complete their assignments. If I could change one thing about my job, I would bar parents from being able to interfere with the educational process.

The hardest part about being an art teacher is realizing that I have effectively given up on my former dream of becoming a famous artist in my own right. Creative people always have difficulty reconciling their artistic impulses and the realistic need to earn a dependable income. I truly do gain satisfaction from watching students discover and use their artistic talents. I think I ultimately made the right decision.

My teaching schedule allows me to create my own art on weekends and during summer vacations. It is the mental shift that occurs when one becomes a working professional that caused me to feel like I was somehow backing out of my true calling, although I know I am fortunate to still be working in a field related to art. It is my artistic talents that make me a capable art teacher.

Because of the way school years are scheduled, I still get to enjoy my social life and I almost never feel tempted to take vacation days. The work itself is not very stressful. The day-to-day grind can sometimes wear me out, and of course it is on those low days that students choose to be on their worst behavior.

To become an art teacher, I majored in art and education in college. I fell into the routine that I still follow to this day. I would go to class, do my homework, and would then turn to painting as my outlet for whatever I was feeling at that moment. I would end up submitting some of these pieces to my professors as graded assignments. Others were painted just to suit my own whims.

I approach my teaching career in much the same manner. I do not create my own private art with my job in mind, but if I happen upon a new technique or idea I may decide to include it in my future lesson plans.

I was not always fond of the way my college courses approached the educational process. I thought that many of the methods I was being taught conflicted with the way that people naturally absorb new information. Aside from these minor annoyances, I cannot say that I regret my time in college.

I am lucky to have a secure career, and this would not be possible if I had not completed a traditional college education. A public school teacher makes about $40,000 a year where I live. Due to the sad state of the American economy, this is only just enough to sustain a single woman’s modest lifestyle. I do not struggle though, and I admit that I cannot justifiably claim to deserve a higher salary this early in my career.

The hardest thing about entering the work force is making sacrifices. I had to give up my late nights out in order to wake up early every morning. I had to do away with my artistic tendency to wait for inspiration to strike; a school schedule demands that students be given daily assignments even if I do not think that they will yield inspiring work. I had to learn to accept that I would not always be completely satisfied with every aspect of my life. When I have the time and energy to create my own art, this internal restlessness has been a great inspiration for introspective pieces.

Teaching is a great job for anyone who has the energy and patience to manage children on a daily basis. In five years I hope to still be teaching.


Career art teacher image from Shutterstock

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