Thursday, April 16, 2009

So You Think You Might Like: Teaching Art

Melissa Harris is an artist and musician residing in Chicago. She holds a BFA in Art Education from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Though previously known colloquially as “M. Fucking Harris,” “Puddin” and “the Predator,” she now goes by “Miss Harris” at a local middle school and is in charge of a few dozen human spawn.

F***ART: What made you decide to teach at the elementary level?
MH: Well, first of all, I do not teach elementary children. Although, they are probably much kinder than middle school children. Anyway, I never really decided to be a teacher, it kind of just decided itself for me. I remember being afraid and confused, long ago in my college days, and one day I found myself sitting in front of the head of the Art Education department lying about how much I loved children. I wasn't even accepted into the Art Education department during freshman portfolio week. I just marched myself blindly into the office and started talking. After that happened I just went to the classes that were required of me and eventually graduated. Having survived teaching on Saturday mornings at 8 a.m., I decided I might actually be able to make it through - one week at a time - the act of teaching a class. As the days go by, I sometimes really enjoy teaching and sometimes I can't stand certain students, and yes, I feel the guilt and the joy!

F***ART: How much creative control do you have over your lesson plans or learning objectives?
MH: I can pretty much do whatever I would like to do. I can say whatever I would like to say. I can teach the children in a biased and leftist manner, too.

F***ART: How would you rate the art education department at UIUC, as compared with other programs?
MH: Well, I thought it was alright. I couldn't stand a few professors...namely Lori Hardy. She used to choke on her spit and stutter. Also, she never had good advice and seemed like an old spinster. I did like Olga because she was Russian and said “comics” in a funny accent. Overall, I thought the program was alright, but it could have definitely been more focused on projects geared for middle to high school level students and classroom management techniques. I heard through the grapevine (UIUC professors) that UIC has a better Art Education program.

F***ART: What advice do you have for those aspiring to teach art?
MH: I'm not sure. I would advise those interested in teaching art to consider the state of the economy and the fact that many schools are cutting their art and music programs. On a more positive note, it is very rewarding when you teach something that the students really get and enjoy! Yay!

F***ART: What other kinds of jobs can be had by someone with your training?
MH: Someone with my scope of knowledge and experience can find many jobs! They can work at a Park District, in a children's museum gift store, in a grocery store, as a cashier, at a candy store (I did!), in a bowling alley, as a retail clerk or server, in a number of different offices as a temp or secretary, as a musician, or at a Michael's Arts and Crafts store!

F***ART: Please tell our avid readers (all three of them) about the kid who did a video project on manatees.
MH: It's hard to explain how one person can be so annoying, but I will try. Maybe I can just send you a link to the video! It is so bad that it might kill brain cells, though. Let me just say that this student thought manatees were overcrowding the oceans and that global warming was as real as evolution (if the Earth really did exist for only 6,000 years).

F***ART: Anything else to add?
MH: In all honesty, it can be the good life. Truly the good life.

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