What the art teacher did…..apart from just teaching

We are not quite at the time of the year yet where I spend time encouraging pupils to consider choosing art as a final exam subject.  It is often quite hard work opening pupils eyes to the possibilities, the personal development that such a choice might bring or, if they were to take it further, the range of opportunities on offer if they were to head in the direction of the creative industries when seen as a whole.  There is often resistance to such a message from home, from colleagues and, it has to be said, from other influential places such as mainstream media and government. 

A recent crass an ill thought out British government advertising campaign to recruit for the National Cyber Security Centre underlines the problem.  The message to the ballerina seems to be to to go and get a proper job.  There was a suitable reaction to the image from those who work in culture, and social media was suddenly full of reactionary  memes and the government was forced into some embarrassed back-peddling, but it shows an underlining message.

Financial Times article

The Big Issue reaction

These prejudices run deep. At the school where I teach we essentially give lessons in twelve subject areas.  Eight of these are seen as being “before the line”.  A cut-off line that defines the eight that are seen as weighing most heavily when monitoring a pupil’s achievement. The four subjects ‘after the line’?  Well, those are art, music, philosophy and physical education.  Mainstream education still has a way to go to understand and value the place of culture and creativity it would seem.

I trained in the arts, both my brothers did and my niece did.  We all work, and are engaged fully in areas of work that we trained for.  I have more art and creatively orientated work on my plate than I have time for.  I teach teenagers to understand and appreciate the informative, communicative and enrichment that the arts can bring to our lives.

There is an irony here though, as I mentioned, I have plenty of work to do.  And part of the reason for that is the extent to which the school at which I work can make use of my creative skills.  Think of things such as:

  • Animation films, posters, folders and flyers for any number of in school and PR related reasons
  • Films documenting school activities and trips
  • Exhibiting of pupils work around school
  • Website building to make lesson material accessible for pupils
  • Playing an active role in school related social media work and the material that we place there
  • Giving workshops and developing lesson material in the area of digital media

These are skills that have their roots in deciding to chooses art as an exam subject, these were built on during my years at art school and further developed independently thanks to the creative, problem-solving attitude I developed whilst pursuing this study and indeed afterwards.  What is this ‘behind the stripe’ nonsense?  Art and creativity is work and it is truly all around us. One variation on the Fatima image takes this a step further.

I could go on, but those schooled in the creative industries are often multi-skilled and hugely useful in all areas of work.  A school is no different, and with that in mind, I’m just off to brush of my Illustrator skills again and do the next bit of PR design work…..which will in due course benefit all my colleagues, in whatever subject area, in the long run.