Five years ago, my husband told me I should apply to work at Wildwood School as a teaching assistant. I wasn’t sure about it. I wasn’t sure that I would be a right fit for a role such as this. Was I good enough?
A month later, I found myself sitting in an office interviewing for an open position as a teaching assistant. Predominantly driven by the notion that I needed to have a job in which I was provided benefits, I was looking forward to this interview. I was not aware that a few years later, I would find myself in a high school classroom creating my very own lesson plans for crafts and engaging with individuals I would have a relationship with for what could be a lifetime.
I received a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Art. Shortly after that, I went for my Master’s Degree in Art. I have always loved writing, and exploring several mediums of art such as photography, painting, felting, and so many more. I certainly didn’t realize how valuable this would be to me while working at Wildwood. I have gained so much more immediate knowledge of artists and techniques simply by creating lessons for my students. Both the class and I have learned some really great new ways of making art and a lot of background information on several different famous artists. My goal was to give them the opportunity to express their creativity in a way that they found both productive, and a means of communication and representation.
I worked alongside the Art Teacher at the school, gaining insight on useful teaching techniques for my future endeavors. We often collaborated as I was simultaneously able to expand my teaching experience during my time as a Teaching Assistant. We both loved the idea of incorporating more Art into the students’ education so it certainly seemed to work out well for everyone. I was extremely grateful for the unique opportunity I was given.
I was astounded to see the work that these students have created. I often admired the way that they are able to let go and create a masterpiece. Their expression comes from a different place—much different than a place of creation for the sake of creation. It is something difficult to put into words. It became a way of communication. I could suddenly feel some of the things that they wanted me to feel. By the simple stroke of a brush, or the number of objects on their paper, or the way things are arranged, I was able to learn so much more about them.
My students were so involved in just the process itself. In my own work, I have always made art centered on process alone, but this was different. The materials they chose to use had benefits that were both sensory as well as a means of personal representation. They didn’t need to justify a deeper meaning of their work. It was already there on the surface—in the colors they chose, the marks they made, or the scale they chose—there it was
I seldomly interfered in their work. I wanted to allow them to be who THEY were as both an artist and individual. If they wanted to make something completely different than what I was asking, I didn’t mind. As long as they were engaged in the process of making. I wanted to see their idea come to fruition—and I was never disappointed. I admired their enthusiasm!
I have no doubt in my mind that my time as a teaching assistant has transformed me as a person. It helped me grow in ways I didn’t realize was possible. I have overcome a lot of personal challenges and I am able to do things I never could as a person and an artist. It was during my time as a teaching assistant that art is a vital resource for a lot of people. It helps create a way of expression when no other way is getting the message across. I think we can all learn from the people we support when we just observe and let them be creative.