Friday, December 23, 2011

Coming Clean: part 1

I just checked my email and was THRILLED to see an email from Julie Fei-Fan Balzer. Aside from being a wonderfully talented artist, she is one of the hosts of PBS's Scrapbook Soup and for me a great source of inspiration. You see, for many years I've hidden a part of my true self being the unassuming mask of a kindergarten teacher... but deep within, there was an artist waiting to be awakened. Since I haven't blogged about this secret alter ego I suppose I should explain a few things:
Growing up, I knew I wanted to be an artist. My mother told me that even as a little kid, I would save everything to use later in my art. If someone had a box of candy, I wanted the shiny or ruffly wrappers for some then unknown purpose. I think I may have liked broken jewelry better than the 'good' stuff, because I could use it for something else. My first Barbie was merely a mannequin for outfits I could sew, knit, or weave for her.
When I went to high school I took every art class that I could get and arranged to hang out in the art room during my study halls. Because I was generally a good student, most of my non-art teachers allowed me to multi-task craft projects while in their classrooms. My poor, dear mother dreamed that I would become a doctor, but I had other ideas. I took studio art and art history classes while at the University of Connecticut and later transferred to Parson's School of Design. I finally graduated from Western Connecticut State University before they were accredited to give me a BFA, but I was sure that I would be a designer of some sort. I did some freelance graphic design for a few friends and I began knocking on doors.
Well, I wasn't very good at facing rejection and ended up waiting tables. My mother suggested that since I had a degree and since there was a national teacher shortage and since I didn't really like waiting tables, that maybe I could see about getting an emergency credential. Before I knew it, I was teaching third grade in Los Angeles. I had gone from being a wanna-be artist, to the art director of my bustling classroom. While teaching the kids to read and write and do mathematics, I was also teaching (and practicing art). Being a teacher could be an enormously creative job that largely satisfied my inner artist.