It was last summer when we as the 2015-16 elementary art teachers to-be sat together in a room of The Fine Arts Institute to hear what was required of us in the upcoming school year. As is often the case with small groups, we were asked to introduce ourselves and share our artistic background.
As each woman shared I became more and more aware of my lack of official credentials. Damn it if I haven't accredited myself. How's that unofficial and imaginative paperwork going to hold up?! Sure I have a college degree that someone deemed worthy to give the title: Bachelor of ARTS but my art involved words. Lots and lots of words. Not paint. Not canvas. Not brushes or clay or charcoal. Words. And if you want to get down to the nitty gritty my journalism professor often took a red pen to my creative words, cutting out all that "fluff" I was so fond of, leaving me with just the facts.
So when it was my turn to share about my artistic background, I had to plow through with the passion of someone who has always made a way for herself and so she shall continue, especially when in the "hot seat."
I have an art blog.
I was once a partner in an online digital scrapbooking company.
I started a monthly artistic publication.
I sold my art on Etsy.
Sigh. Me, who had a degree in words, felt at a loss of them. How to explain how I believe in art more than anything else in the world. It is my way through. The fact that I am showing up HERE IN THE HOT SEAT, even though it feels as though it's burning my ass, IS my artistic credential. I am worthy of teaching art because I can't live without it.
The truth is, what I said that day didn't really matter. It was small talk and niceties. Not in a bad way, but just in a "we are all in a room together and we are going to be doing the same thing this year, so let's get to know each other a little bit."
When I walked out of the room of all those women who had gone to school for art or gone to school to teach art, or had been successfully teaching art for years, I knew the exact same thing I had known walking into that room. My credentials didn't change just because I heard theirs: "If I am going to be an art teacher, I have to believe I can be an art teacher. And not just that I can be any old art teacher, but that I can be the best art teacher in the world for the kids I am specifically entrusted with."
That's really, at the end of the day, all it takes.
Once the school year started, I didn't see those other women who were trained to do this thing which we were doing. I saw the students. My students. And I saw myself in the mirror every morning. And I told myself I was qualified as an artist to tell these kids they were qualified as artists.
- You don't have to know it all.
- You don't have to have done it all.
- You don't have to be included in the "in" circles.
- You don't have to be well recognized.
What you have to do is see beyond.
And then you have to show up and believe that you are qualified to be there. And believe and believe and believe. And show up and show up and show up.
And see beyond and beyond and beyond. Keep pushing the beyond.