Monday, November 21, 2011
A day in the life of an High School Art Teacher
I think I may have been a teacher in my former life. When I told husb this, he immediately imagined me in the mid 1800s, in a one room school house in a small community. I added that I was probably the unmarried school marm, that loved the children I taught, like they were my family....
So, maybe this is why I had the need to follow my friend, Susan Avery Clark, around all day as she taught art to High School kids. Here's record of her day.
Pictured above, Susie, at 8:15am, greeting her 20 high school students at the door. (In each class there are 20 or so kids, usually 75% of them are boys.)
Susie teaches at Murray High School, a continuation high school, of juniors and seniors in Vista, California (just north of San Diego.) For these students, it's their last chance to graduate.
(A continuation high school is an alternative to a comprehensive high school primarily for students who are considered at-risk of not graduating at the normal pace. The requirements to graduate are the same but the scheduling is more flexible to allow students to earn their credits at a quicker pace since they are usually behind when they arrive at the continuation high school. Students who attend these schools may include discipline problems, drug users, pregnant teens and teenage mothers.)
Period one: 8:15-9:05
The first period students are quiet, filing in to get their materials. A couple of them appear to sleep or rest with their heads in the arms. The energy is very low.
Susie, cheerful and smiling, asked them as a group, about their recent 3-day weekend. At this point, they mostly mumble. She introduces the lesson (based on illustrator James Christensen's Renaissance figures and creating their own patterns for the costumes on their hand-drawn characters.) She draws and demonstrates the lesson.
Susie's demo is on the left, the students interpret it.
Period two: 9:05-9:55
Another 20 kids, slightly more awake, file in, and she repeats the lesson with a new demo.
Susie's on the left, a student work on the right.
Period three: 9:55-10:45
Another 20 kids, these are more social with each other, and Susie quiets them so she can be heard. Susie tells me later many are considered homeless, by the state, as they are sharing living quarters with multiple families, or in some cases, the kids can't live with their parents (a restraining order against dad, for example) and live with a classmates' family.
another demo, repeating the lesson and principles again.
Some of the kids get right into it. Many have to be cajoled, because they lack the confidence in their skills.
During the 20 minute break, Susie checks her email for messages and schedule changes or announcements. We go to the teacher's lounge to grab a snack of cheese and crackers. (One needs protein to keep up this pace!)
Meanwhile, the kids are outside and there's a group activity. Susie grabs her camera to get pictures for the yearbook (She's in charge of the yearbook this year.)
Period four: 11:05-11:55
Another group files in. Susie hugs one boy, he's just gotten out of jail. (She and everyone believes he was falsely charged.)
The kids are allowed, in this school, to have ipods and wear ear-buds to listen to music during class. The administration believes the music helps the kids focus. Susie requires the kids to take out their ear-buds when she's giving the lesson, and then, once she turns on classroom music, the kids can put in their ear-buds. It doesn't always work that way..
(Susie's demo drawing on the left.)
Period five: 11:55-12:45
Another group of kids. Susie continues her upbeat, supportive style, respectful of the kids, yet firm when she needs to be. Most of these kids have difficult lives, and she knows it. And they realize that if they are kicked out of this school, or fail, it will be an even harder road ahead.
Susie's 5th demo on the left.
12:50, Susie checks her email again for messages and announcements. Goes to the teacher's lounge for a quick lunch. Then back to her classroom to clean up, and prepare for the next day's 5 lessons, grade papers, administrative work etc until ~ 3:30, when she heads home.
At the end of the day, Susie still looks great and full of energy. I, frankly, am exhausted.
I have huge admiration for Susie. She is a natural-born teacher, who cares deeply about the kids and how they learn. She has a teenage sense of humor, that endears her to the kids (and probably helps keep her sane.) Before Susie taught in public schools, she taught community education art classes and she taught me watercolor back in 1993. I'm proud to call her my friend.