In the Art Room

Lest You Get the Wrong Idea

Art teachers are great at advocating, not only for the arts, but for other art teachers as well. As we should be. There are many, many injustices happening to the arts in schools across the country. There are many, many stories of art teachers who have had their positions eliminated because of the lack of support for the arts. My story is not one of those.

A few weeks ago I wrote about my extreme disappointment when I found out that my position had been cut significantly for next year. The support from everyone here, and on Facebook, was awesome, and thank you for that. However, there seems to be a general impression that my job was reduced because of a lack of appreciation for the arts in schools. This was not the case, and I wanted to clear things up so as not to have my situation take away from those who really are unappreciated or under-appreciated.

So here’s the deal.

I work for a county that, compared to other places I’ve worked, greatly supports the arts in its schools. It has a very strong Fine Arts Department, provides relevant professional development, and  offers a variety of leadership opportunities to its numerous art teachers (200+ in elementary alone). I am very fortunate in that regard. The student enrollment in our county continues to grow by thousands every year. Unfortunately, within the boundaries of my particular school, the numbers are not growing, which means, fewer students, fewer classes, and understandably, less of a need for teachers, in all areas.

I’m not the only one who was affected. In fact, I’m not even the one who was affected the most. Three gen ed positions were cut. Three, full-time, general education positions. Special Education teachers and IAs were destaffed. One of our full-time PE teachers and one of our full-time music teachers each had their positions cut by a day. My position was cut by two days, reducing me to one day a week. Our other full-time specials teachers, in PE, music and art, were not affected and still have full-time positions. I think that’s important to note.

I work part-time. I work part-time by choice so I can spend extra days at home with my young daughter. Once upon a time I worked part-time because that’s all I could find for work. Now I work part-time because I feel it is important to have my daughter home with me a majority of the time. I understand and appreciate that this is a luxury, and I’m beyond grateful to be able to afford such a luxury. Someday I will go back to work full-time, and I’m confident that when that time comes, I’ll be able to find full-time work within my county. Like I said, I’m very fortunate.

I fully appreciate what I have. Every day. I’ve worked hard over the years. I’ve paid my dues, scrounging around for odd teaching and subbing jobs, venturing into other fields when those jobs weren’t available. I moved 12 hours away from my family and my rural home to a major metropolitan area for this opportunity. It hasn’t been easy.

I’ve been at my current job and school for four years. I love it here. When I heard I had been destaffed, I was crushed. I’ve formed bonds at my school, relationships. I’ve watched my students grow and change. Regardless of the details surrounding my situation, losing a job you love sucks. Leaving sucks.

I’ve had a rough time dealing with this news. It affected every waking moment of my life. I stopped showering regularly. I stopped getting dressed. I cried. All the time, I cried. I let it affect my teaching. I bailed on my lessons. I let my students make Mother’s Day cards. Mother’s Day cards. With sequins, which I fully believe to be on the glitter spectrum. I fell hard, folks. Hard. Then one day, I woke up and decided enough was enough. I was better than this. Ultimately, guys, I decided, I got this.

So don’t worry too much about me. Whatever comes my way, I’ve got this. I’m good. I’ll get through it. Thank you for your kind words and thoughts, and please, keep rallying for our comrades, keep fighting for the arts. There are many of us out there who aren’t so fortunate, and they need all the support they can get.

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