A letter from the front lines…

Career-wise, I’ve been feeling  lost in the desert lately. The departure from the tattoo shop where I’d worked will be outlined very shortly in another post that has been bouncing around in my head for some time, but teaching is always the bottom line, the fallback, the “stable” career for an artist, and the burden of the current state of instability (among other challenges) in my profession weighs on me heavily. Last year around this very same time, actually, a year and a day ago exactly, I found myself reflecting on the school year, what I’d accomplished, and what was in store. It seems like the school system is still going to find itself a little short on cash for many years ahead, but our new superintendent here in Broward County has made a lot of administrative and other cuts that he has all but promised will make 2012 the first year I don’t get a pink slip on the last day of school.

Teacher Appreciation Week this year passed by in a whirlwind of activity in my classroom and personal life (root canal, intro to surrealism, serious cramming for summer camp plans, finishing up these Pinterest-inspired recycled bottle vases preparing for the weekend’s mother’s day road trip), and didn’t amount to much outside of a delicious and fattening lunch, and some very cute poems and inspirational notes from the principal in my e-mail box. This morning, however, I received a letter from the parent of one of my students.

“(Her) shyness and tendency to blend into the background had not served her well during elementary school. From what she has told me this year, her quiet nature has been complimented by her teachers. Instead of looking at it like a handicap, she is looking at it as an asset this year. Noticing one thing … has strengthened her self-confidence more than any of you will ever know.

I saw her bring art projects home and work on them for fun. She loves art, but in elementary school she always felt like a square peg with round hole projects.

There are no amounts of heart-to-heart conversations or advice about school that I can give … that could substitute for all your consistent caring and concern that (was) felt loud and clear all year. I would never have foreseen middle school as a place where (she) grew so much. I thank each and every one of you for strengthening (her) structure, and letting her feel comfortable to be who she is. I am so glad you got to see her as I have seen her throughout her life; the potential to do anything, someone who never gives up, and a “crackable” nut, if you try. Thank you everyone for trying!!!!!”

When I think back to school, and some of the teachers who really made a difference for me – Mrs. Levine, my gifted teacher in elementary school, who turned me into a leader, inspired my love of organization and made me a steward of the environment; Ms. Musso, my drama teacher in middle school, who got me hooked on theatre, instilled in me an understanding of discipline and professionalism in the arts; Ms. Swagart, my biology teacher in high school, who made me love science and research, convinced me to take AP Bio without the prerequisites, let me clean her classroom for extra credit when I was struggling to pass, AND sponsored my feminist club; Mr. Zeller, who made me love and make time for reading again, and showed me what being passionate about your subject area looked like – when I think about these people who made such an impression on my young life, the phrase “words cannot describe” comes to mind.

But students, and parents, I urge you – – describe your appreciation. In your actions. By pushing in the chairs after you leave the room. In sending your child to school with the supplies they need – and maybe even the extra stuff you have hanging around the house that the art teacher could really really use. By not talking back rudely and thusly infuriating your instructor, making them wonder why they can’t just get a quiet desk job somewhere. By ceasing to write stupid comments on online blogs and forums about what a terrible job the schools are doing in raising  your offspring 8 hours a day while you sit at your comfy desk and read articles online. And, in your words. Write a letter. An e-mail. A quick note. A phone call. Please. I really needed it today, and I’m sure you’d be hard pressed to find a teacher who doesn’t. Tell us how we’ve helped, and  you’ll give us the energy to do even more of it.

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About Kristyn Michele Bat

Teacher, tattooer, artist.

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