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This week’s feature is Chelsea Cellar, an art teacher at Dixon Middle. Chelsea teaches for the kids, she wants to make sure she is doing her part in society by educating the youth. She hopes to give her students the critical thinking skills they will need for the future. Here is what Chelsea wrote about her reasons for teaching:
Why I Teach…
by Chelsea Cellar
Recently, a student handed me a note completely unprompted. “Thank you for putting your time into teaching me… You have made me a better person.” He went on about how he has enjoyed my art class so far and how he’s not excited for the year to end, because it means art class will end as well.
“Art was the only reason I went to school,” a new acquaintance recently told me. I can think of several students I have right now for whom that may be true; students that other teachers know as a behavior problem, but who are attentive and engaged in my class.
One of my autistic students, who I have known for two years now, exclusively draws comics in my class. He can’t write or spell very well, so he points at the panels and tells me what’s happening, but half the time I can figure it out anyway because he has gotten so good at drawing expressions on his stick figures. There’s another autistic student I have that has taken all the classes he can here in middle school, and who puts his whole effort into drawing and learning to do advanced things like shading and perspective. (Essay continued below video.)
I teach for the big reasons, as I think all teachers do: to help shape the future with my own hands, to imprint the importance of art on young minds, to share my knowledge and love for my subject.
But more than that, I teach for the tiny successes. I teach for the student who sat in class uncertainly on the first day, unconvinced he could draw, excitedly telling me at the end of the week that his drawing exercise looked better than he thought it would. I teach for the student that didn’t want me to show her work to her parents because her self-portrait incorporated the LGBT flag. I teach for the students that can’t speak English very well, who are able to follow along visually and learn new vocabulary along the way. I teach for students who can’t read or write too well, maybe thanks to a disability or delay, who strengthen their language skills and understanding of the world around them through art.
More than anything else, I teach for the kids that don’t leave my class excellent artists, and who may never do art in a formal setting again; because it’s not about what I teach, but rather why. Certainly, I’m certified to do other jobs, maybe ones that aren’t so demanding, aren’t so exhausting or consuming. Yet, when people ask, I tell them I love my job, and I wouldn’t rather be doing anything else. Most teachers I know answer the same, despite all the hardships. Why?
I teach to help students understand themselves and how their minds and bodies work. I teach to help students understand each other, how conversation and interpersonal interactions work. I teach to help students understand the world around them, and why we need to be aware of it and to remember what’s come before. I teach to help make our differences not so glaring, and not something to be so afraid or annoyed about. I teach to help close up gaps in understanding
I teach to help.