I have spent much of the last few years trying to play down the teaching, in order to boost the awareness of myself as an artist, not just to other people, but to myself. It took me a long long long time to rediscover my art practice, and once I had decided I could call myself an artist, I didn’t feel secure enough with it to call myself anything else until it “bedded in”. I do now. I am an artist first now, I think, a teacher second.
I also have spent a long time trying to figure out how the two things sat together. Did I take my art into my teaching space? (No, not really) Did my teaching affect my artwork? (Yes, but in subtle ways).
I find it interesting though, that the more of an artist I become, the more people find my teaching a thing to ask questions about. I try to teach as an artist now, not be an art teacher. Is that a ridiculously hair-splitting pretentious statement to make? So although I don’t take my art into the art room, the artist is there. My art isn’t always appropriate to take there.
I have considered asking not to be called Mrs Thomas any more, but being Elena. Would this make a difference to me or the children really? It is quite a traditional school in many ways) If I visit other schools, I am called Elena. I have considered putting a sign over the door that says studio. (I share the space, half the week it is a “proper” classroom, at the front of the room at least, so this might not be right…)
Some of the opportunities I’ve had as an artist, have come about because I am also a teacher. So I must be grateful to that side of my life, and although I am tempted on occasions to give it up (Michael Gove has pushed me ever closer), I shall be sticking with it a while. There are still things to discover, and every year with every new set of students/pupils, last year’s methods need a tweak here and there. Or a complete re-think.
I hate all the guff that surrounds teaching. But when it comes down to it, there is nothing much more joyous than a room full of children, paint and paper… there comes a moment when the room is nearly silent, all are engrossed totally in whatever world they are creating. I daren’t move or make a sound for fear of disturbing it. I come closer to making artists out of them then than any other time. I have not poured words of wisdom into their heads, or given them a timeline from the Renaissance to Post-modernism. I gave them paint. All it takes. These politicians make things too complicated.