Substitute Art Teacher


One of my new friends is a Middle School Art Teacher. She asked me to fill in for her full class load of 6th, 7th and 8th graders for a week and a half.

As a person without children, and who doesn't work with young children often, I took the gig happily. Art was one of my favorite subjects, and it sucks to have your regular teacher be out. Instead of learning cool new stuff, you have to do coloring or busy work with a stuffy class babysitter that couldn't draw a stick figure to save her life. Nope, I couldn't let that happen. I figured I normally teach college students, I should have zero trouble teaching shorter versions of those students.

Ha! I was not at all prepared. Not only were my students itsy bitsy adorable, but also so full of energy and just unable or unwilling to sit still. They were also constantly seeking reassurance or testing boundaries of the new sub. Compulsory school students are a whole different animal from college students. What had I gotten myself into??

After the day 1 melt down, I made a deal with my students. I said, "I am a real life artist, and I can teach you new art superpowers. I want to make you all into superheroes before I leave. Write your name and any special ability on this piece of paper. I'll take your picture and make you into some artwork.  The amount of effort I put into your art depends on your behavior in class." Magically, behavior went from wild and crazy to calm and motivated. Now I have over 100 superhero posters to work on... but it's truly a small price to pay for better behaved classes. I let them use their computers and cell phones. I let them sit where they wanted and talk about whatever as long as they were working. I had them call me by my first name. I wanted them to act like small adults that just haven't lived that long. They all proved to me that they didn't need wrangling, just a little motivation.

We got nearly all the assigned work done, and quite well.  I also taught nearly all of them how to "photoshop" any images together, which truly unlocks digital super powers. It feels good to teach real life skills. One student photoshopped his head onto a body builder so he could have big muscles. Another student photoshopped a puppy onto a beach. Another made dolphins in space. Another put a rainbow wig on a pig. They were all talking about how they were going to do more of these when they got home. Many of them went on to learn how to digitally draw on their photos and unlock more digital art super powers.

I survived teaching some middle school art. I learned a lot. I unleashed about 100 new digital manipulators into the universe. They've unlocked a new way of thinking and expressing themselves. I call that a successful week and a half.


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