Monday, March 28, 2016

I'm just a delivery truck and other thoughts

After the response of my last post, I was extremely encouraged to start blogging in a meaningful way.  That is an understatement.  I was dancing in my living room, a stupid grin plastered across my face, ignoring the hunger cries from my small children, wearing those famous art teacher pajamas, incredibly overjoyed that tons of people related to how I was feeling.

 And I was beyond flattered so many people were encouraging me to continue blogging. 

To me that is a scary, but very cool, prospect.  I really want to write.  I've had a few short stories published, people have paid me to write papers for them correct their work, and I enjoy writing grants.  In fact, I've been writing since I was a kid.  In the days before the 24 hour child-friendly cable networks, that's how we entertained ourselves. 
As a seven year old, I wrote romance novels.  Cartoon Network didn't exist yet. 
Why am I an art teacher?  I guess the short answer is art just won out over English in college.  In my grumpy days, usually right around art show time,  I'm noted for saying, "I should've taken the test to become an English teacher.  It would be less work."  And then I look around, to make sure none of them heard me.  The English department is eight people verses two in the art department.  They could totally take me.  Thugs. 

That led me to the next problem.  What the heck am I going to write about?  I'm an ok teacher, but there are a million better educators than me.  I could write about my awesome wardrobe, like Cassie Stephens, but people would get sick of seeing my socks (I have a great sock collection.)  I could write from a retired perspective, like Phyllis Brown, but I'm not retired (On the upside of this, it's only 43 years until I can write from that viewpoint.  I did the math!)   Internet advice says write your blog from you authentic voice, but that sounds dangerous to me.  My authentic voice is the voice that said to me in college, "It's fine if you stay out until 3!  Your final isn't until 10 AM!"  My authentic voice hasn't grown up much over the years, but it continues to counsel me to make great decisions.  "Watch just one more episode of Star Trek!  It's only Sunday night at 11 PM!"  and "Of course you won't throw up if you eat that last Cadbury Creme Egg!"  I don't know if I can always trust my authentic voice. 
I just want to join my brothers.  Please don't deny me my destiny. 

What is different about my experiences as an art teacher?  Then, like 15 packages of 64 count Crayola crayons on sale for 90% off at Michaels, it all came home.  I teach in a rural district.  A diesel truck driving, camo wearing, deer huntin', extremely rural district.  Teaching art here is an experience.  I'm not saying better, I'm not saying worse.  I've never taught anywhere but where I currently work, so I have nothing to compare it too.  So, if you work in a rural district and can relate, or if you've never seen a cow in your life, here are four things about teaching in a rural district that they don't tell you in college, or in an interview, or anywhere:

1.  My kids have zero sensory issues.

                I know from reading the Internet  a lot of students don't like to touch certain supplies.  Actually, I don't need a Wi-Fi connection to tell me that... I refuse to touch chalk because it feels like chalk.  My kids have way fewer sensory issues than I do.  During paper mache, I had a student reach right into the goop.  He pulls his hand out, and with a total straight face and cheerful voice says, and I quote you, "It feels just like afterbirth!"  That's not the best part.  The other kids just start nodding in agreement.  No jokes or ewwwwws!  Just a causal observation from a student that's probably attended more births than my OBGYN.  These kids are farmers, and have no fear of the unknown. 
I had the choice to show chalk or afterbirth.  I went with the grosser option. 

2. Poop is not a big deal.

                I bet I threw you off with that last statement.  In fact,  it was quite an odd statement for me to type.  When deciding what kind of teaching degree I wanted, I knew right away I really didn't want to teach kindergarten.  I didn't even know if they could go to the bathroom by themselves yet!  (I later found out they could.)  But if children's books have taught me one thing, they have taught me that everything poops.  We are a rural school with a farming program.  We have chickens and cows in our school, because these are the supplies that are needed to teach farming.  Sometimes these supplies poop.  Deal with it. 
At least my paintbrushes don't poop on my desk. 

3.  Pink camo is a thing not to be messed with.

                I think of the pattern of camouflage  like I think of the painting, Starry Night.  It sorta represents nature.  It was something I liked in middle school.  Also, a lot of people can identify it on sight, making it pretty common place.  Pink camo, on the other hand, is something totally weird to me.  But you do not mess with it in a rural school, or middle school girls will hunt you down.  Pink camo shows up in everything we do.  I've had ceramic bowls glazed to look like pink camo, pink camo inspired paper marbling, and pink camo decorating the border of a drawing.  At first, I fought it.  Hard.  Then it dawned on me, I'm the odd one out.  (Also, I'm the only person over 20 in the classroom, but who's counting that?)  It was time to shut my mouth about the pink camo.  It was simply a reaction of my students to the world around them, and isn't that the goal of art education?  To observe and process their surroundings?   Now, I think of pink camo like I think of Van Gogh's brush strokes.  It is simply a defining characteristic of my students' art. 
The assignment?  Draw yourself in fancy clothing. 

4. I am the first line of defense in an artless wasteland. 

                I always get the same thing said to me, year after year.  It's always the same scenario.  A kid is sitting in class, staring at me like a creeper, and then they say it: "Mrs. Dupree, you're not from around here.  You're like, from a city, aren't you?"  Well, jokes on you, kid.  I grew up in the next school district over.  HA!  But really, most of these kids have never been outside of our area.  A person with a little bit of artistic experience and  knowledge does stick out.  The closest museum of any kind, not even art specific, is 35 miles away.  Art is not really something that is part of their lives.  This doesn't mean they don't appreciate it, it just means it's not common in the area we live.  I see myself like an art delivery truck.  A diesel art delivery truck, with stacks.

 And you guys thought I was just a teacher. 

And, that's it folks.... my words of wisdom about art teaching in a rural school.  I hope you enjoyed  this post as much as the last one.  If you did, and want to follow my art adventures,  I've decided I'm going to update my blog every Monday night.  See you next Monday when I write about  how bad I am at art.  (For reals.) 



  1. You've hit another home run with this post! Of course, I also teach in a northern NY rural district, with loggers and hunters and camo-wearing kids, but mine is minus the farmers. But there is certainly some level of understanding!

  2. Funny! I love the camouflage pictures. How interesting. I would like to see more of your novel. :)

  3. Funny! I love the camouflage pictures. How interesting. I would like to see more of your novel. :)