Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Next Step

Choose your rut carefully; You'll be in it for miles.
~Road sign on the side of an Alaskan highway.

Teaching the beginning of printmaking techniques to my 4-5 year old kindergarten class in Shanghai- using a thumb print to make owl's feathers.

I need to come up with a game plan.

As the weather warms up for spring, I see new beginnings all around me. New blossoms on the trees which will eventually become fruit. Caterpillars which will soon become butterflies, baby things that one day will be adult things. And me, still wrapped in my cocoon, wondering if it's time to burst forth and what will I be? A moth or a butterfly? Self employed or working for someone? a Writer? An artist? An art teacher? A butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker?

Preparing a photo board for halloween. I loved my Chinese co-teacher, Shirley, "Melanie, What to do with this big box for tomorrow's (Insert obligation here.)" (Looks at me expectantly for creative ideas...)

Today I took my paintings into the local commercial art gallery and had a lovely chat about my paintings and what I plan to do with them with the fabulous owners who abandoned their lunch to chat with me and point me in a few new direction. I knew my stuff is quite unique to this area (Even they wondered if my paintings were "Turkish" in nature!) and so I never expected the gallery to take on the work. I won't bore you with all they said, but they liked what I did a lot, and told me if I could market it well I could be very successful.

One day Shirley was close to tears because the leaders deemed our gargantuan classroom not colourful enough. We had half an hour to make it colourful. This actually worked. The criticism? They weren't kids hands. Bt I argued that this was a high window and it wouldn't be safe. Point for Team Shirley & Melanie!

But how to market at all? Facebook, Twitter, Blogs have been good for the scarf business that has picked up over the past week. Do I try to get a gallery? Set myself up somewhere and flog paintings to tourists? I'm trying to think out of the box in this one. I have always done art and will always do art, that's not up for debate. But I am wondering if I plug along, try to get an arts-related job in Vancouver, or if I should head back to school to become a high school art teacher. If I do, I'll be close to forty when I am done. (But if I work till I'm sixty, that's twenty more years of career, right?)

I made all of these costumes. It looks pretty simple but it took me a week of nights. No one bothered to tell me there were costumes in the attic of the school. Grr. But they were cute for 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' sung badly.

The art gallery man thinks becoming a teacher is a waste for me; if I work on painting I could eventually have something really good going on. He mentioned children's books,, which seem to be a reoccurring piece of advice in my life. The art gallery woman at one point said, "You know what you could do? You could teach and paint on the side!" I could! So what to do?

This looks like intense teaching on my part. But the little boy next to be liked to cheat when he wasn't digging for gold. I was most likely pointing out he moved too many spaces, while drinking my morning coffee in my Turkish Starbuck's mug.

Pros: I like art and I like teaching. I could work overseas in a private school and have a proper expat job. I already have a wealth of experience in teaching and my linguistics degree can count as a minor in ESL, still valuable in Vancouver which is full of kids who need to learn English.

I went all out for Halloween, I admit. The kids loved this haunted house so much they refused to let us take it down and eventually beat it into a pulp. Notice the paper cup black cats on the roof! Pastel resist and tempera paint.

Cons: It will be hard to find work in Canada if I choose to stay here since BC is cutting art out of schools at the moment. I'll also be older and competing with younger teachers who will have longer teaching careers ahead of me. And it's teaching. I'll be standing at the front of the room, belting at kids to sit down all over again. Or will I be the uber cool teacher kids can't wait to get to class to hang out with? I know the kindergarteners liked me.

"w." These kids amazed me. The little blonde one spoke Spanish and Dutch at home, and Chinese and English at school. He was often our translator for everything and was thought to be my kid by the other parents for half the year!

Because I have two degrees, the woman who answers the phone at the UBC faculty of Education decided it was best for me to come down and sort out what exactly it was I needed to do with someone at the university who could lead me around to where I need to go to see if this is the right path. Yup! Career advising. Why not? Besides sorting out a career path, I wouldn't mind getting down to Vancouver for some stylin' Asian food and to hang with my sister when she isn't studying for the end of culinary school as well.

Yeah, I know. Halloween again. It was the day someone else had the camera. That's me dressed as a scary witch though. We drew all of those pumpkins on the bulletin board in honour of my favourite holiday. God bless Western Holidays!

And once I've got my ducks lined up, I'll be prepared to make decision. Funnily enough, I found my old art teacher on Facebook, and wrote him, asking him if he remembered me, and if I could come over for a visit and pick his brain about becoming an art teacher. He responded, telling me he remembered me, and that he was no longer the art teacher! I don't really know if that bodes well for me, but he was nice enough to have me drop in anytime for a visit. I may do that next week.

Am I up for (possibly) three more years of school?

Until then, I will work on some new paintings, sort out some scarves, do some writing and think think think.



  1. Waiting for you here! Get ready to eat a lot of funky food.

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  3. I think that you should visit my friend in Naramata - he and his wife have lots in common with you (world travellers, artist (Janet), entrepreneurs - creative types). Take Paul if you can. Kerry has offered to help him too. They might have viable suggestions for you both. I've told him about you and Rene - and your mother's Christmas stockings for that matter - I'm sure they would be glad to see you.

  4. Hi Melanie,

    I don't know if you remember me, Kim Ans, we went to high school together. I just stumbled across your blog and it seems ironic you are talking about becoming a teacher and I had to comment. I've been an Art Teacher for 11 years now and went to UBC. If you have any questions feel free to ask...I've even trained three teachers so i can probably answer some questions for you.

    Let me know kans(at)prn(dot)bc(dot)ca