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Yoda, I am.

April 12, 2012

Being a creative in Switzerland is like being a clown at a funeral – even with the best intentions you are just bringing the wrong kind of skills to the wrong kind of party. I have picked up little bit of work here and there, but I am hampered by the language on one side and the fact that there is not a great deal of animation done in Switzerland.

So when I saw an advertisement for a part-time art teacher I thought: I can do that. I’ve trained people and taught people other kinds of skills so maybe I can teach kids how to draw and paint…can’t I? So I sent them my resumé and a ‘letter of intent’ (sounds like a bloody ransom note, if you ask me) and crossed my fingers.

So a few weeks flick by in the usual routine…make pancakes…take kids to creche / school…work like a bastard for three hours…pick son up from school…pick daughter up from creche…make lunch…drop son back at school…go to supermarket / play / chores…pick son up from school…go to playground…chores…cook supper…bathe kids…stories…teeth…bedtime…flop on sofa like walrus to not move again save to find new batteries for remote control…like everyone else. Then an email arrived inviting me to an interview, lunch and then I had to teach a class…of 14yr olds….24 of them!

I was spectacularly unbothered by the interview. I have conducted tons of them in my life and being the other side of the table doesn’t bother me in the slightest – I just remember my own advice: be yourself, don’t bullshit and do some research – it obviously worked because they decided to unleash me on the kids.

I obviously had to prepare a lesson ‘plan’ and make sure I delivered everything in the allotted time and I decided to get the kids to draw teeny, tiny items really BIG in really bright colours.

Anyway, I was shitting bricks before they came in. I don’t know why. I’ve trained rooms of people and given presentations at conferences and besides, I’ve got kids of my own, what’s there to be worried about? But it’s, you know, teenagers. I don’t know what I was expecting – attitude, knives and spotty Twilight obsessives spring to mind – but they turned out to be a pretty chilled out bunch.

After the initial nerves (about a minute) I got into showing them the idea of what I wanted them to do and helping them out with composition and choice of colour. There was a little chatting amongst themselves – which I don’t mind – but one of the observers (there were three) said I should nip that in the bud or it’ll turn into a social club. I didn’t care too much – in my mind they were working and that’s what they’re there for. They all finished what I’d asked them to produce, no one died or suffered delimitating disfigurement so I label that: a success.

So, I ummed and ached for a bit wondering if it went okay and the next day they said they’d love me to be a teacher…I just needed to learn some basic teaching skills. Stuff like: I forgot to do a register…I didn’t dismiss them at the end of the class, so they kind of sat there like statues until I said: ‘oh, right – you’re dismissed,’ and I haven’t developed my voice of authority yet. I was holding that back for the big kids who looked like he could take me in a fist-fight…but they were all smaller than me, so I reckon I could’ve taken on three or four. Besides I had access to the art cupboard, you hear me? Knives, scissors and protractors. The feedback I got was that I managed to get them to laugh a bit, they had some genuine rapport with me and they produced some good work.

So, there you go. I’m gonna be a teacher. I am choosing my special mug carefully, elbow patches and a selection of corduroy trousers that add ten years to me. Now, if only I can cultivate that musty smell…

6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 12, 2012 10:23 pm

    Wow, congratulations. And don’t hone those authoritarian skills too much if you get away with it. Art teachers are supposed to be … well arty. Save the bad asses for Maths or Physics.

  2. April 12, 2012 11:18 pm

    1. I love that movie and the Chart of Rock.

    2. What I learned from substitute teaching: Start out mean and get nice rather than the other way around.

    3. Congrats!

  3. MariaL permalink
    April 12, 2012 11:32 pm

    Many congrats Michael, I am sure you will be great. As a former secondary school teacher many, many moons ago i would echo the advice already given- start off as you mean to go on with all the ‘non-negotiables’ clearly laid out for them, because introducing them after things have gone pear shaped is very very hard! Teenagers can tell if a teacher doesn’t actually like them a mile off and that’s generally when there’s trouble. Contrary to popular belief I think most of them are great- they just hide it well sometimes…

  4. April 13, 2012 5:13 pm

    Wow. When you’ve discovered your ‘voice of authority’ (she typed meekly, scared already) will you vlog about it?

    Huge congratulations. The teens obviously thought you were very cool or would have rioted. I feel another book coming on.

  5. April 16, 2012 7:23 am

    Mate, give me a room full hard-nosed executives over a class of ‘yoofs’ anyday! You’re a braver man than me but congrats and I look forward to many more fascinating blogs from the artroom…

  6. April 16, 2012 2:18 pm

    From what I know of the local schools, here in Spain it’s the opposite. Talking between students is not considered an issue at all, apart from by some English teachers I know (as in they’re English, not teaching English). It does their heads in, or did initially at least, they’re coming round to the idea that there is some learning to be achieved that way. Still makes them twitchy though.

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