As creatives, I feel as though the schooling system failed a lot of us.
An intense way to start a post, I’m aware. As melodramatic as it sounds now, hear me out – hopefully my explanation and interpretation aren’t viewed as “uneducated”.
To give a bit of background, I grew up with teachers as parents. One whose school and classes I attended and the other who taught at another school in the area. Both of whom had social circles made up of other teachers.
School and I were not the best of friends – and not just because it was difficult to get away with pushing the boundaries having had extra eyes on me, or because whenever I did actually excel in any way – “It’s because your mom works here.” I’ll admit I wasn’t ever the most eager to apply myself after I began to find something tiresome and frustrating – Math, Biology, History… Basically, any and all of the subjects I was made to believe – “are the most important for your future”. Maybe it was because of this that I seemed to excel in the arts, although I’d favour the idea that this light was always alive in me.
Keeping the above in mind as a backdrop to the peak of this blog post – for a very long time, I’ve held on to a memory that habitually rears its ugly head in a moment of lachrymose impotence. I’m tired of feeling as though I’ve failed entirely because of where someone told me I would forever be a failure.
We’ll call him “Sir Fudgy”, a history teacher who had taught with my dad and knew our family well. In Grade 10, after a particularly heated debate class, “Sir Fudgy” pulled me aside afterwards to speak to me “about my behavior”. Fair on his part, as I do get quite passionate when trying to prove a point. The conversation took an alarming turn when a number of his frustrations with me, as both a student and person, were aired. Our head-to-head ended with him telling me, “I would suggest you think seriously about moving to a school better suited to your academic level. What are you going to do with the rest of your life? Sell your paintings on the side of the road?”
At that time, being the teenager I was, I shrugged it off as another frustrated attempt to get me to “apply myself” but it was so much more than just that. It was cruel.
You summed my future up in such a small way, and I ended up doing exactly what you said I’d be doing, but in a much bigger way than what you ever expected of me. So sad, because you were one of the people who was meant to imagine the world for me and inspire me to be “more than”.
Now that I’ve made it sound as though I was stunted throughout my education, I need to add that I am lucky enough to have met, been taught and inspired by some of the most incredible individuals. I believe only that a step in the teaching process was missed somewhere along the line.
We’re all taught that there are clear right and wrong answers, but on very few occasions (if ever) have we been taught why there are right and wrong answers. Or that sometimes there are multiple answers that need weighing and measuring for validity, or even, that sometimes all the answers are correct. Don’t just tell me something is right and “that’s’ the way it is”. You’re a teacher – explain the process, tell me why and help me understand. The same applies for lecturers, professors, employers and the like.
Each teacher should inspire. You may not believe that you are able to make a difference to every child or person that you have the responsibility of teaching but please, for fuck sakes, just try. Your first reaction to someone giving up because they haven’t understood should be to encourage and help them to understand in a different way. And for heaven’s sake, take time to look behind the arrogant teenage bravado and instead of reacting with your ego, listen. Hear what is actually being said, “I am confused. I am frustrated doing subjects that are meaningless to me. Engage me. See me for my own talents and play to them. Value me.” Part of teaching is learning how different people need different things from you.
So, here’s to you “Sir Fudgy” – this is the outside of my office, on a street in Parkhurst. Yes! I will sell my art and I will make a success of it. My talents may not have fitted school, but they sure fit running a design and illustration agency.
Written by: Meg Elliott (co-owner)