Monday, November 21, 2011

A day in the life of an High School Art Teacher

1  1a
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
2
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.
3
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.
5a    14
Susie's demo is on the left, the students interpret it.

5
Period two: 9:05-9:55
6
Another 20 kids, slightly more awake, file in, and she repeats the lesson with a new demo.
12a   25
Susie's on the left, a student work on the right.

20
Period three: 9:55-10:45
21
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.
4  22   22a
another demo, repeating the lesson and principles again. 

26
Some of the kids get right into it. Many have to be cajoled, because they lack the confidence in their skills. 
10:45-11:05 Break
29c
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!)
29a
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.)

30
Period four: 11:05-11:55
31
Another group files in. Susie hugs one boy, he's just gotten out of jail. (She and everyone believes he was falsely charged.)
35a   35
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.)


36
Period five: 11:55-12:45
40
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.


36a   36ab
Susie's 5th demo on the left.
43
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.

susie and me
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.

19 comments:

  1. Love your story!
    It could be mine as I teach similar groups of kids,
    These days I teach English, some days are even longer!
    6 or 7 periods behind each other.
    I must say, i' m exhausted everything day, but when I'm home and surf à little on THE net, read your blogs, make some art myself, I'm happy again.
    Marijke
    THE Netherlands
    Www.art2wearblog.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Looks like Susie used Zentangle patterns in her demos. I've just learned about these lately. Good for her to spread art to young people. They say that art soothes the soul. I have the fondest memories of my high school art teachers.

    Donna
    Toronto, Canada

    ReplyDelete
  3. What a great idea for a blog entry! Thanks for broadening my world.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh Jane, I so appreciated this post! How wonderful to honor your friend this way. I admire what she's doing and am glad those kids have someone positive in their lives who can help them find their creativity!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Susie has more energy than most people I know...a true hero! Great insider look at her day...thanks Jane!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Very interesting! I started out teaching in high school then elementary and I taught a 2 month stint of high school art. I can really appreciate how exhausting this is!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Everyone should have an Art teacher like this, unfortunetly they are few and far between l find.xx in Uk when money needs to be..it is always seems to be the Art Dept that is cut!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I spent 10 yrs assisting in SPED class, did a lot of art with the kids (k-5), which was one way to reach them. This post brought back some good memories, thanks for sharing. Art is SO important for these at-risk youth, even if they don't "get it" now...

    ReplyDelete
  9. Jane, Thanks for the day-in-the-life. I always say that once I taught high school for two years, everything else in life was just easy-peasy! Don't you wonder why teachers aren't paid more? Just saying :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. WOW Jane, what an inspiration your friend Susie is! I hope these kids realize how lucky they are to have her love and her art guidance.
    I would be exhausted too - as much from the stress of dealing with all of these different and challenging personalities, as from the daily schedule.

    Thanks for a great post!

    xo

    ReplyDelete
  11. What a great post. I don't know that I would be able to keep up that pace!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hooray for high school art teachers! That was a wonderful tribute, thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thank you for sharing this very interesting post. I teach english in France (but I'm dutch) and an article like this shows me how someone else teaches on another continent but equally passionately; it's different and alike. A wonderful oppportunity to watch, with you, over the shoulder of your friend., anja

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thank you for sharing this very interesting post. I teach english in France (but I'm dutch) and an article like this shows me how someone else teaches on another continent but equally passionately; it's different and alike. A wonderful oppportunity to watch, with you, over the shoulder of your friend., anja

    ReplyDelete
  15. Thank you for sharing this very interesting post. I teach english in France (but I'm dutch) and an article like this shows me how someone else teaches on another continent but equally passionately; it's different and alike. A wonderful oppportunity to watch, with you, over the shoulder of your friend., anja

    ReplyDelete
  16. April Wright11/23/2011 9:28 AM

    What a lovely lesson! I love using pattern with my elementary students. It takes a special person to teach high school students. I love her schedule and her long planning period at the end of the day! Thanks for the peek into her classroom!

    ReplyDelete
  17. This was such an honor to have Jane write about my day. (She failed to mention that part of the reason she was exhausted is that I made her share some of her art, sketchbooks and comments about the life of an artist each period.) It was so nice for the students to see and hear someone besides me. Many had questions and comments for her.
    Each day is different for me at Murray, sometimes more draining than others. But I live to encourage and support these students and I LOVE seeing the interesting and beautiful work they create. As each project unfolds their unique ideas come to life and their confidence is strengthened. I'm already seeing such creativity in this current "Take Your Fish for a Walk" as they brainstorm how their Renaissance person "walks" their pet fish.
    Jane, Thank you for your bravery in coming to my class and sharing with the students. This post may be the highlight of my years of teaching!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Wow, Susie, and Wow, Jane. Amazing post. What courage and what dedication. In my book, teachers should be paid doctors' salaries, their work is so important. Thanks for this post.
    best, nadia

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for visiting JaneLaFazio.com!

Related Posts with Thumbnails