When I was growing up I had a lot of really smart friends - one was playing masterpieces on a piano while I struggled with Hot Crossed Buns on my recorder, another was memorizing and reciting chapters in history books while I was still trudging through the second paragraph, while yet another was excelling at trigonometry while, for some reason, the 7s times tables never quite stuck. It's not that I wasn't intelligent (although reliving the scenarios I just wrote makes me wonder...) rather, whenever I looked around my group of friends, there was always someone better at any given subject.
So there I was, having another mid-high school crisis, just your typical female teenager not feeling great about herself. I had been avoiding homework and had started to fall behind in some of my classes and my parents were starting to get on my case. One night after dinner, after weeks of trying to motivate me to get some assignments done, and the only thing left was a drawing project due for Art Class (easily my favorite class, but I still didn't think I was all that wonderful at it). After some encouraging words, they made me sit down at the dinning room table with my pencils and a big, clean, intimidating sheet of drawing paper. I begrudgingly began to draw a picture I had taken on a recent field trip to the West Side Market in Cleveland of some produce. I had mistakenly thought that because I found the picture boring, it would be simple to draw and I would be able to go to bed soon. I was blissfully unaware at the time (as we humorously seem to be at life-changing moments), but that night I fell in love with Art.
As it turns out, the "boring" drawing I had chosen was full of unexpected challenges, the differing textures, foreshortening, and subtle value changes all became riddles my mind refused to leave unsolved. I distinctly remember my parents popping their heads into the dinning room as telling me I could stop and get some rest. I also distinctly remember telling them I has to finish this carrot first, or this potato, or... oh my god, the background needs so much work! I got very little sleep that night, but when I woke up I was filled with an excitement unlike anything I experienced before.
The drawing I made that night ended up not only getting an A (go me!), but it went on to be accepted into an art competition at a local College and earned a cash prize! I had a THING! I was good at something! Take that Algebra!! I AM allowed to feel good about myself!!
Obviously I should look at my high school self (disinterested, self-loathing, unmotivated) and run away from teaching screaming. But now that I've been through it and I can look back, able to appreciate the struggle, I desperately want to hold other struggling hands through the turmoil. I know I can help them understand that even if Art isn't their "thing," they will one day find that riddle their brain refuses to leave unsolved and wake up feeling different about themselves and life.
And if Art IS their thing?! WOW are we going to have a blast!!