Friday, 22 July 2016

So you want me to teach art?

Fifteen minutes before class, in a mad panic, I hurriedly spread three different art textbooks in front of me, and tear through the pages, praying for something that looks remotely doable.
Sketches, paintings, portraits, carvings, pottery. No No No. Who is this book trying to kid? I'm on a colour pencil and recycled paper budget! Giving up on the stupid Picasso-themed textbook, I toss it aside for a more realistic solution.

Panic level has just escalated.

I dig deep into the recesses of my mind and pull out vague memories of my art classes in school shamelessly aiming to copy some lesson ideas. Why do they all involve bits of potatoes and cross-sections of okra? Is that all we did?

 The stress level at this point is off the charts

5 minutes to class, abandoning all, I grab my markers and go.

As I not-exactly-hurry to class, I quickly assess my own capabilities. What am I good at? Okay Stick figures and ,...nope....just stick figures.
Do I know any cool origami? Yes. A boat. A boat hat.  But a boat hat lesson would not last an hour.
I could make them do 20 boat hats! No, that's a mess in the making.

In what unfairly seems like no time at all, I reach the classroom. The first face I find, is the one I loathe the most. He has a lazy, uninterested look that seems to say, "so you think you can teach us art, lady? good luck loser" I detest him, and I am convinced he is a glue sniffer, with mush for brains.

 He shoots me a bored look so scalding that I am immediately brought to the painful realization of how little knowledge I will impart today.

The other students have a mixture of hope and pity etched on their faces, because they too can sense my hopelessness.

Suddenly I find myself announcing in a pseudo confident voice, that we are going to be sketching a human face today!

Why did I do that? Had I forgotten my very limited abilities?

I take out a marker pen and draw an oval, the way I had seen done in some books.

I told them to copy what I did.
This is what I was doing

The students do not seem to struggle and they are producing mass drawings of equally bad quality.
I add a moustache and a beard and some other detailing to the eyes, I also announce that the quality is in the details.

Where am I getting this confidence?
But there is no stopping me. I pin point and zoom in on details that I clearly cannot manage, trying to drag on the time as much as possible.

I begin to adopt a lecturing tone, explaining the facial structure of cheekbones and nasal cartilage. I also stress on the importance of smile lines, wrinkles, and emphatically illustrate my meaning

I begin to look impressed with my drawing, and feel like I've sketched Jesus.
I hear a student mentioning the demon Valak, from the latest Conjuring film, and I am snapped back to reality.
Soon, there is absolutely nothing I could possibly add to the face, and I tell them to finish up their drawings. I walk around and point out flaws, openly laugh at some of their juvenile attempts and tut tut at some whom I think are not putting in enough effort.

I glance at my watch, 10 minutes more. Excellent, time for the final bit of instruction,

Alright colour your work and pass up.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Are You Happy Doing What You Do?

In the beginning, people used to ask me how I found teaching, and echoing most of the reports and write-ups in the papers, I responded by criticizing the profession, the system I was in because that seemed like the correct answer, the answer most people expected to hear about the teaching career in Malaysia. The more I repeated this answer, the more depressed with work I became. Teaching is a headache. Teaching is stressful, teaching is never-ending paperwork.

And one day (okay not one day, it was a gradual thing) I realized that I had happy moments, and I was taking home those happy moments. Suddenly, insulting my job wasn’t sounding very truthful anymore. It conflicted directly with all the funny tales I had to tell.

I recently found myself in the company of some new friends and one of them commented that it must be easy work to be a teacher because of the short hours we spent at the workplace.

Quickly on the defensive, I said that teachers had to bring home their work when a lot of other jobs didn't, but the truth is we all bring home our work in one way or another, either in the form of stress, reflections or physical heaps of marking. 

I believe the more important thing to ask is not “whose job is harder” but “are you happy doing what you do” And realistically we can’t expect to be happy with every aspect of the job, so, at the end of the day, what sticks with you? The high points or the low points.

So I’ve discovered that whenever I ask someone what they do, no one expects me to ask the follow up question, “is it fun?” and what I mean by fun is, not to describe the job to me, but to tell me if YOU enjoy it.

So you could be a bank loan officer, a doctor, an engineer, a teacher, your job experience is very individual and extremely personal, and it is very interesting to see how people talk about their experience doing their jobs. 

Bottom line, if you cannot say with conviction that you are having fun, at least most of the time, then in my humble opinion, you need a change of scenery! Toodles!