Friday, December 03, 2010

ArtLife After Teaching Art

" ... I might turn into a unicorn!"
--Martha M., Art 3536 student

So the semester has come to a close, and I not only lived through it, I loved it. I'm talking, of course, about my first semester teaching at the Very Nice College, which you will already know about if you're one of the 2.3 regular readers of this blog. As it turns out, it may be my last semester teaching at the Very Nice College, for even as nice as it is, they could only offer me two classes for spring and a schedule that had me leaving Boone at 7 pm at night. Which is fine during the fall, but Boone is up in the mountains, and in the winter that means dealing with a sometimes substantial amount of snow and ice and sleet. Between time, money, and fear of death, added to the great unlikelihood of being made full-time (much less full-time tenure-track), I felt like I had no choice but to call into play that great euphemism, "elect to explore other opportunities." Which means I'm back to living off my savings and looking for work closer to home.

I was a little bit weepy on the last night of class; many of these students feel more like friends or family rather than strangers I just met a few months ago. I really want to keep up with them and watch their progress in the world, even if I'm not a big part of their lives. This is the cool thing about teaching college students; you can see who they are and who they can become, the seriousness of them, the specific flares of potential and talent and capability. To me, it's far more exciting than working with children. (It's all a matter of perspective, I supposed, but from my specific point of view, all I can say is that I'm not here to mold unformed lumps of clay, I'm here to help travelers already on their way see the paths before them.)

I still have lots of grading to do, but an interesting thing has happened. All semester, my thoughts were entirely consumed with teaching and my students. I was grading, planning classes, pondering how to help my students get more out of our assignments, thinking about issues with particular students, wondering if I was doing a good job, etc. etc. etc. I really only thought about school all semester long. Classes are now over and I'm sad about it, but my brain has changed.

Suddenly, all I can think about is art. My art. And my intense longing to get back to it.

While I have all this grading to do, I have to avoid my studio. Even walking into it means I will lose track of time, my dinner will burn, the horse will go unfed, the downstairs will grow dark and cold as I sink into planning and thinking and wondering and feeling my way though creation. I want to start half a dozen new projects. I have calls for entries to no less than five upcoming shows on my desktop. I attempt moderation, just an  hour or two here and there, but it is futile. My teacher mind has stepped back into the shadows, my artist mind has come roaring to the forefront. It is as if I have become some mythical and barely remembered creature; it is, as my student Martha once said, competely apropos of nothing and utterly without context, as though I have turned into a unicorn. And as much as I love teaching, as much as I adore my students and will miss the time I got to spend with them every week, I can hardly wait for the transformation to be complete.

This blog entry is dedicated to Rachel, Martha, Addie, Alex, Jenna, Genna, Jennifer, Larissa, Jon, Eric, Natalie, Shay, Stacey, Keegan, Arika and Nick from 3536; to Katie K., Katie W., Whitney, Shay, Kelly, James, Ashley, Kathryn, Carly, Annie, Sam, Cristina, Rachel, Jennifer, Garrett, Nick, Daniel, Bailey, Abigail and Jackie from 2022.

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