Why did you become a teacher?

Everyone has an origin story, right?

Here’s mine.

I used to think that Art teachers were failed artists and English teachers were failed writers. In fact, I thought that teaching was failing. How stupid and naive I was!

Actually a lot of creatives end up in the profession because they are passionate about what they do and want to share their talent and passion to make a difference. Actually teaching can be an incredibly rewarding profession. Actually it is a job that is not boring and keeps you on your toes. It is not a failing. It is a calling.

I finished school a year early because I was accelerated (I’ve always been geeky and over-achievery). At 16, I went to Germany for an exchange as a creative holding year while I applied for Art School. This was the year I learned a lot about grammar by learning German fluently. Then I squished a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Fine Arts into four years (because I loved learning and kept doing extra papers). After that I went to London for another break year and worked in retail/fashion (ended up leading concept store for FCUK) then wanted more brain food. So I returned to NZ and I did my Masters in Art History/Photography and Philosophy using a German philosopher and I became a tutor to pay my bills while I wrote my thesis. This was the Aha moment. I found out that I liked working with students and I liked revealing the secrets of essays and analysis. I LOVED it when things clicked for them. I LOVED figuring our ways to make things click. So, new epiphany in mind, I did a secondary teaching diploma and have been in education (Art, Art history, English, Digi tech and more) ever since.

What is weird about my subject specialisation is that it is an unusual combo. I’ve always crossed subjects because I don’t feel like they have defined edges. English AND Art is a tricky job to look for and it often doesn’t exist. Usually this means slow job crafting until I get a nice full platter to play with even if it means starting up Art History or introducing Digi Tech if the school doesn’t already offer it. That can be fun too.

At the moment I’m out of the classroom helping teachers and adults with professional learning and I still love the CLICK moment. My mission is to help them to see how they can make things engaging/exciting/challenging/creative for their learners. My magic power is in pulling things together across pedagogical approaches and subject areas and making things go CLICK or KAPOW! Experience design and making learning engaging is my happy accidental calling.

Today I’ve hauled out some old Art History books so that I can look at how my favourite subject area might illuminate the Aorearoa New Zealand Histories Curriculum. Tomorrow I get to work with a teacher to design some lesson sequences that pack a punch for kids that are also appropriately scaffolded to share with a department that has some teachers who are still a bit shy of technology. On my to do list, too, is some more philosophy reading to see how I might create some fun activities for a coaching course. I’m also going to digitize an exam so that it is self-marking and pre-coded to give feedback to students as a practice tool for literacy for another school to trial. It’s an interesting mash up – but the story I’ve just told is how I ended up being a lifelong learner on a mission to make things click and spark.

And then there’s that false belief I used to have that still needs to be addressed. Is teaching a failing or a calling? Am I failed artist? Nope, I still exhibit every year and still design textiles for art licensing. Am I a failed writer? Nope, I still write this blog regularly and have a healthy poetry writing habit. I even have a collection that is almost ready to present to a publisher AND I’m stoked to have some of my poems selected for a regionalist literary magazine. I am not failing by teaching, I am responding to my calling. I am sharing my passion for learning, for art and for words.

This painting is currently on show at the Pukeiti Predator Free Art Showcase in Pukeiti Gardens. It features 50 NZ artists with a shared kaupapa of safeguarding our forests for the future. My quote is, ‘We will do better every now from now’ and it speaks to colonization as well as to predation.
This is one of my favourite poems. It glorifies death and vanity but also honours the fly somehow. It’s a bit morbid but also beautiful.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s