I’ve always been a very reflective person, whether that has been reflecting on my art practice, my teaching practice, or in an office with a mental health professional about different life events. I remember creating this website to showcase my artwork when I was only a senior in high school back in 2013. Now, as of today, in 2021, I have just finished my first full year of teaching high school art. I want this space to be a place where I can reflect on my art and teaching practice, to share anecdotes, experiences, and events that come in the future or maybe even become a place where you, the reader, can relate to the words that I write.
As we all know, most of 2020 and 2021 have not been what anyone would ever want. The 2019-2020 school year was my first year out of college and my first time teaching full time. After many conversations with those dear to me, I made the difficult decision to leave that school in February of 2020 due to the school culture not being the right fit for my teaching philosophy and practice. The weeks leading up to my resignation were very tough, so much that when I finally signed the exit contract, I felt the need to leave behind the life I built in Boston over the past 6 years and seek emotional rehabilitation at my parents’ home in Los Angeles.
Schools in Los Angeles closed their campuses on March 13, 2020 for what everyone thought would only be two weeks. In Boston, the virus had not infected as many people yet as in LA, so I was still very naive to the severity of what was happening. I flew home to Los Angeles on March 17, 2020 unsure of what my, or really anyone’s, next steps were.
As the days went on and California kept extending the Stay at Home order, it became clear to me that COVID wasn’t going away anytime soon. I started the process of transferring my Massachusetts teaching license to a California teaching credential (different states have different terminology and yes it gets very confusing). Once I got that ball rolling, I started applying to teaching positions in Los Angeles. I was nervous I wouldn’t get a position for a few reasons:
I quit my previous and only full time teaching position mid-year
At the time of applying, my CA teaching credential was still being processed
We were in the MIDST OF A PANDEMIC
Despite all of this, on May 7, 2020, I was incredibly fortunate to be offered a full time teaching position at my current school for the 2020-2021 school year.
Part of me was relieved, but a larger part was anxious. The questions that circled through my mind for the months leading up to the first day of school were:
How am I going to teach art via Zoom to students I have never met, at a school I haven’t even stepped foot in?
Will I have a similar experience at this new school to the one that I had at my previous school?
Am I really cut out to be a teacher?
Throughout this school year, I’ve been able to answer these questions.
Growth mindset is a term used widely throughout the teaching profession. As teachers, we are considered lifelong learners, always adapting our pedagogy and curriculum to best fit the needs of our students. Over the summer, I joined multiple Facebook groups for art teachers who were teaching remotely to gain a sense of community during a time that was otherwise lonely. Art teachers from all across the world would post their lessons, ideas, tips and tricks on how to navigate the difficulties of the upcoming school year. I bought a tripod for my phone so that I could record video demonstrations of different art techniques to show my students. I virtually attended conferences and webinars hosted by the National Art Education Association. I had the guidance of my coach who is part of my school’s administration. I made friends with other teachers at my school during our school’s weekly faculty zoom meetings. I made it work. I had to for my students.
I made incredible connections with my students while my students made incredible artwork that both I, and more importantly, they are proud of. I watched my Freshmen get accustomed to high school, well, virtual high school. I watched my Seniors get accepted into college and walk across the socially distanced stage to receive their diplomas. I watched my students struggle academically, emotionally, and physically. This school year was nowhere near easy, however it reassured me of what I knew all along:
I AM cut out to be a teacher.
I am GOOD at being a teacher.
I LOVE being a teacher.
I used to believe that everything happens for a reason. However, that thought has now morphed into believing that every experience influences the next. The experiences leading up to now will not be forgotten, however I will do my best to not revisit them.
I’m excited to be returning in August to this school and to be returning to in-person instruction. I’m excited to log off of Zoom. I’m excited to drive to work instead of just walking the 5 feet from my bed to my desk in my childhood bedroom. I’m excited to actually see my students’ faces and hear their voices. I’m excited to see the great things they will do and the art they’ll create.