Starting with Why

Like the goldfish in this picture, I felt overtaken by responsibilities and the needs of others. I loved my work, my students and co-workers, but I did not maintain a healthy lifestyle or feel like an exemplary artist mentor to my students.

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In the middle of my first year of full-time teaching they made a new rule in the school because of me. They said all employees who are not night custodians must exit the building by ten p.m.. Before then I kept changes of clothes at school and a spare blanket in my coat closet for nights I worked so late I only had time to sleep a few hours before getting up and starting all over. If it snowed, I woke up early enough to go dust off the car and drive it in and out of the parking lot so the head janitor would not realize I had never left. I often beat him to school an hour before the other teachers arrived, so my presence alone would not surprise him. But one day, he found me folding up my blanket, and he happened to be married to the Assistant Superintendent of the school district. Well as you can imagine, changes were quickly underway.

Not all new teachers have such an extreme story, but many do. I had four hundred art students in my charge as half my job and coordinated the elementary English language learners program for the other half of my job. Pairing school responsibilities with being a perfectionist, I did not take a whole lot of me time. Inexperience was also a big factor. I wasted plenty of hours being too tired to effectively use my time, but stayed at school feeling obligated to work harder for my students. I did not produce any personal art during the school year for at least two years, and it is still a rare event for me. If I had taken a few of those hours and repurposed them toward reenergizing myself with creative adventures, I wonder how differently I would have felt at the end of a day or year. As it was, I quit after three years of working exhaustively and have not taken on a full-time position since. I loved my work, my students and co-workers, but I did not maintain a healthy lifestyle or feel like an exemplary artist mentor to my students.

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