Class Canceled and a Rant on Teaching

Costumed Cody

I thought I’d better do a post to tell everyone my class for making the most exciting Christmas Cards Anyone’s Ever Done has been canceled for lack of interest. No one signed up for it. Of course I immediately took it personally, felt like a lousy teacher and then thought, “No it’s a good idea so we’ll just try it next month on Saturday and Sunday, November fourteenth and fifteenth from 11:00am to 4:00pm.” Never give up is my motto. This will give you all one more chance to learn watercolor and produce some original cards for those special people that you love. Bella’s Beads has ordered some already made watercolor cards and you can get them there. Other pictures, bangles, spangles, glitter etc. should be brought by you to personalize what you’re doing. Or you can simply bring your watercolors and I can teach you how to do a quiet snow scene or a funky Christmas tree or any other Holiday type of card. PLEASE if you’re interested call The Dalles Art Center before November ninth if you want to take the class. Sign up early so I’ll know what to bring to share with you. If I don’t have a full class by the ninth I’ll have to cancel again and it would break my heart. (Not really, but I’m kind of a drama queen. You can take the girl out of the theatre but you can’t take the theatre out of the girl.) Remember it’s ALL about me.

What will you be when you grow up?

Which brings me to teaching. Most of you know that before I started working full time at my art I was a teacher. I went through student teaching, certification and everything. I was a student teacher at Madison High School in Portland and had a great experience there where I worked with two great coaches and another student teacher as a team of four. There was never a day I didn’t want to come to work. It was a wonderful learning experience and I’ll never forget it. We would facilitate debates (Revolutionary soldiers vs. the English), (Hawks vs. Doves), (Unions vs. Union Busters) and taught lots of really interesting subjects in US History. We had big classes, but we taught to the students needs and really brought them into the process of learning about our country. It was magic. During this time I was found to be excellent at teaching those students who didn’t quite fit the “high school” norm. This could be any kind of student who hated school for various reasons including hating themselves. I was told I had to teach an “extra” class, a class on environmental science and responsibility and I was given a full classroom of “alternative type” students. I fell in love all over again. From that time on, my resume reads like a crime novel. I taught as a permanent substitute teacher at Jefferson High School for a year. I had six great classes in Social Studies per day and one class called aptly “The Nuggett Group” who were kids who had all committed felonies of one kind or another but were on probation from “kid’s jail” only if they came to school. I had them last period of the day, after they would get high or drunk at lunch and as a result were impossible to control. I was told that I HAD to teach them about China. That was the unmovable and unchangeable curriculum. Those of you who know me know that following rules isn’t my best trait so after waking up Wanda (a teenaged prostitute) during films on the Great Wall for about a week, I changed everything. I changed to MY curriculum, (unbeknownst to the principal at Jefferson who would have passed out). We planned what the class would consider an ideal school, using art, field trips, movies etc. It sort of worked. The kids came to class. But from then on I knew how important it is to be a teacher who actually knows WHO she is teaching. I, from that time on, let Wanda sleep because she really needed the rest! From there I taught at Rosemont, a lock up for girls run at that time by the Good Sheppard Sisters with the help of Portland Public Schools. I was chosen to be the only teacher in a Good Sheppard run group home called The Bridge (From the song Bridge Over Troubled Waters by Simon and Garfunkel). It was a locked facility for status offenders (runaway girls) in the Beaverton area located in a big house where the girls lived, went to school and played. I loved doing this. My students and I became very close and I’ve much later on various occasions seen a few of them in passing on the street or drunk at a movie theatre where they yell my name, run up and hug me soooo hard. I worked for seven years at Multnomah County Juvenile Court with “crook” students. I worked with alternative school students for Multnomah County and with “teen mothers” at Wynn Watts School. I was Director of Thomas Edison High School on the Jesuit High campus in Portland for two years. So I have my teaching creds and my street creds. Don’t doubt it.

line for flu shot

 So…I was over at Kaiser Permanente the other day getting a flu shot when I got into one of those conversations that you get into while in line anywhere. I was talking to a woman, a professional woman, about various topics and she asked me about my kids. I told her about what they did and where they worked and how well they both were doing. I, in turn, asked her if she had any kids. She answered, yes; she had a son who was a junior at The University of Oregon. I said how nice that was and asked her what her son was majoring in and what did he want to do with his education? She got a very worried look on her face. She told me that he was leaning toward being a… (get ready for it) a TEACHER and that she was quite disturbed about it. He’ll have no chance of a good life or of making a big amount of money she explained. I must have looked horrified. Here was a person who didn’t understand that teaching is more than a job, but like a doctor or a priest or a nun is a CALLING. If you’re called…you will answer. (Sorry I just watched Field of Dreams) I began to explain how great teaching is and how lucky she was to have a son who recognizes this and is willing to become someone who might teach my grandson and all of the others in our next generation.  As I looked at her face I realized that she would never understand. I hope her son sticks to his guns and becomes the greatest teacher in the world. My own son doesn’t teach for a living but he is an excellent teacher of his own child and I think that deep down inside he would maybe really love to teach some Junior High Science.  But he followed another passion of his, a very creative passion,  and is happy and doing great. My daughter is a journalist and would make a great teacher if that was where her passion was. I know my children both respect the teaching profession. Both their parents and step-parents have all been teachers. All of us have been influenced in some way by our past teachers. So I’m saying this… Teaching is an important and difficult job and not everyone is cut out for it. It means giving up all of that corporate money, giving up lots of your free time and means going to school in the summers for the rest of your life. But it can be magic. You can mean something to your students and you may not ever know how much your words and actions meant to them. You can make a difference.

 “Teachers are the books that students read most clearly.”

I suggest you read “Dehumanized” an article by Mark Slouka from Harper’s Magazine/September 2009. Also read any book by Ken Robinson who writes about creativity and education. My son turned me on to his books and swears by them.

Our grandson a match for any teacher!

 Don’t forget to sign up for card class in The Dalles. Get those costumes ready for the opening of The Dark Side Show at the Attic Gallery in Portland in December. And of course October twenty forth is coming up so Happy Birthday to me and Happy Halloween.

7 thoughts on “Class Canceled and a Rant on Teaching

  1. Mary Hortman

    Preach on, sista’. As you know, I’ve done some time as a teacher as well…though I don’t think I really had “the calling”. But I did my best, and it did feel good to influence them in a (hopefully) good way. Oh…and I agree – that’s a handsome little guy!

  2. Sue Martin

    Some 40 years after ignoring my father’s advice to get a teaching degree, I’m sort of regretting it. I did end up teaching – adults in corporate training classes mostly – and I’m proud to have a son who is a teacher. Jerry, you’re a great art teacher and those with the means to take your classes are crazy not to!

  3. Veronica St. James

    Happy Belated Birthday, Jerry! I hope you had a grand day with lots of good wishes, a birthday cake, and laughs. You are a gift to the world!


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