“You're here!” she exclaimed, rushing into my booth that the craft show.
I acknowledged, after a quick look around, that I was.
“Yes, I am!” I said, mimicking, honestly, her infectious enthusiasm.
“You don't remember me,” she continued, “I’m sure you don't but you came to my class a long time ago to talk about your art, back when I was in middle school, even, a long time ago, and I promised myself then that when I grew up and became an art teacher I would find you and ask you to come talk to my class, too! And now here you are, and I got my first teaching job this year, and could you come for a visit – are you still doing that?” And she did it all in one breath.
“Cool!” I replied. And “Sure!”
What else do you say, other than something like ‘Holy cats! I’m getting to be an awful lot older than I think I am – either that, or this young lady made it from middle school through four years of high school and four more years of college at least, and managed to land a teaching gig, all in half the time that normal people do it, in which case she has my full and undivided attention because you just don't meet people that smart every day.’ Okay, at least I thought all of that in one breath.
Yes, I enjoy talking to art teachers, and to their art classes. Fifth grade and above, please, the older the better, because I tend to talk fast, and I like it when the students get my bad jokes. (They aren't required to laugh, if course, which is a good thing, because they seldom do. Even if, make that especially if, they actually get the jokes.)
I’ve been doing it for a while, acting the substitute art teacher for friends and teaching acquaintances who learn that I’m often a sucker for this sort of show business, and lately for a small but increasing number of new art teachers who had a fun time once upon a time, when I came to talk to their class, maybe a decade or so ago.
We talk about all kinds of things in the art classroom: history, science, contracts & copyrights, adolescent angst. Humor in general. Mine in particular. We fritter away valuable class time discussing deer hunting, visual neuroanatomy, golf, math, marketing, puns, the importance of reading, the medical basis of common derisive vocabulary, and the value of being nice if you ever want people to give you money for just about anything. And crosshatching, which is easier than pointillism.
What we hardly ever do is make any art, which is fine with the students, who are already behind on their assignments, and with most teachers, who are just as happy to have a day off, and to let somebody else do the cat wrangling for a change. And it’s fine with me too, because the excitement of watching someone place tiny rows of ink scratches on a piece of paper ranks right up there with listening to a lecture on the spectrophotometric analysis of oil slicks. (Apologies to my friends in engineering and analytical chemistry.)
Truly, the only thing worse would be to waste an hour of my time and theirs trying to force the kids to do my brand of composite drawing themselves.
Of course, if teachers and students want to try and draw pictures similar to mine, we have lesson plans available for when they have room on their schedules to actually accomplish something. These also facilitate the spread of my brand of artistic nonsense in the event that my calendar is overcrowded this month, or the art class is too far away to reach, chat, and make it back home in time for dinner.
How long can this go on? It’s anybody’s guess, I guess. Art teachers have been letting me come over to their schoolyards and play for a coupla dozen years, at least. And now it looks like we’ll be subjecting a whole new generation to silly notions of right-brained thinking, and left-brain creativity. That’s something worth talking about for a while yet.