This week I've been thinking a lot about what I have learned thus far to become a teacher and how that information is going to help me in the future. I was talking to one of my colleagues whom I was placed at my middle school with about the types of situations we have encountered so far. There have been multiple occasions where we felt very lost and unsure of what to do. Our school is a low income high risk area so many if not most of the kids have experienced/are experiencing a lot of trauma. When the students have opened up to us about certain challenges they are facing or have faced it is difficult to know what to say or do.
As I reflect on my experiences with emotional advice or coping I have seen significant change as I've aged. The stakes have become much higher now, and saying the right thing becomes much more vital than when you are giving a friend advice in high school. I used to live off of helping my friends and getting them through hard situations, so I felt prepared. But once I faced the actual situation in the position of a teacher, I nearly froze... and fumbled my way through the conversation. I ended up helping the student but felt as if I was extremely unprepared to know what to say in that kind of conversation. Could I have helped more? Did I address the situation properly? Was my advice the best I could give?
As my colleague and I had this conversation we came to the conclusion that having emotional wellness education would be almost more helpful than extensive homework and information on lesson planning. Some things come more naturally than others, and especially for those who have a passion for teaching--we have a pretty good basis of what to do when it comes to creating lessons. But if we are going to really connect with our students and have a classroom that is safe, I think educating teachers on proper emotional counseling skills, what to do when a student is in "crisis", and just being an advocate for safe and proper mental health care practices is vital. I have learned in my education courses that the interpersonal connections you make with your students are what make your lessons most successful, purposeful, and pertinent. If we can't connect to our students and make them feel heard and safe, what is the point of having a six-page lesson plan? What they have happening outside of school, or even my classroom, is going to be a huge factor in the success of my lessons and whether or not the students are engaged. I believe knowing how to deal with those kind of situations is something I must learn before I ever even entertain the thought of having my own classroom.
For my art piece this week I chose to reflect on a collection I created in college versus a drawing I created in high school. As I have learned about art and communicating a narrative I believe my art has improved significantly. The first drawing from high school was meant to exude a sense of sympathy and sadness for the figure depicted. My goal was to “depict beauty in ugly moments”. I remember my instructor giving me feedback about not being able to see the “ugly side” I was talking about. I still liked the piece in the end but my purpose of creating it was not significantly fulfilled.
later on in college I received an assignment to creat a body of work using 8 different but conducive sculptures to depict a specific narrative of my choosing. I decided to focus on an article about anxiety and depression in young adults. I had participated in a CSU study for the matter, and was feeling particularly moved to create some kind of work about my discoveries. Through thorough planning and careful execution I was able to tie my narrative together and receive mostly accurate feedback from my audience during critique. I also entered the pieces in the CURC exhibition and was awarded the second place honorable mention for the arts category. Having your message heard is very important and I finally felt like I was “figuring it out” in terms of making my visual language understood. In terms of my future vision, I see this discovery to be an important part of communicating about mental health and emotional wellness with my students. An activity like this could show them I care and open their minds about how they might express their experiences through their artwork or verbally if needed. I think art is a great outlet for populations like I’ve been working with as they often need somewhere to just unload their shoulders. I felt that when I was in high school and did not quite understand how to do it successfully until college. Providing an outlet for conversation through social issue projects is a great way to start breaking down those emotional barriers they might have, in a more gentle way.
For more details + documentation of my artworks created to accompany these blog posts, visit my instagram!