What is an artist? A person who paints pictures? A stained glass designer? A sculptor? Yes, of course they are artists. I happen to be an artist. I paint and draw. I also play music and record, so I am a recording artist. Hhhmmm. I write books too. Is a writer an artist? Then there is the art of cooking. Yes, I used to be a cook – and still am at home. I just love to have some friends over, cook a wild dinner and drink wine. Yes,… there is an art to fine dining! Perhaps the next morning I’ll wake up and tend to the garden. Oh, the beauty and art of being a gardner, talking with the butterflies in the sun, the mud squishing through your toes, the sun warming and shining on your face, and the “art” of avoiding the occasional slithering snake – all at the same time.
Here’s the official Webster definition of artist: :
:a person who creates art : a person who is skilled at drawing, painting, etc.
: a skilled performer
: a person who is very good at something
People ask me what I do. I tell them I am an artist. “Oh!” do you paint pictures? “Yes. And I do stained glass, and write books, etc. etc., … “ and then I transform the answer into my definition of art and being an artist. Yes, yes, I do those traditional artistic things I explain, and have extensively for modest income in the past even. Now, I tell them, I am an artist in a more philosophical way. I continue to paint, and make stained glass pieces – sometimes both at the same time. However, I explain, writing books and poems is an art, and I do that too. And I play, write, and record music – so yes, I am a recording artist. As explained, I enjoy the culinary arts , and the art of fine dining!
So, I eloborate, “to me, being an artist is a philosophy. As an example, look at the waiter at a sidewalk cafe on the Champs d’Elysee in Paris. He’s not just a food server. He or she, is a waiter serving culinary delectables to patrons (who are thoroughly enjoying the art of sitting in the Paris sun and living!) on the Champs d’Elysee. S/he has a pride in what he is doing. He is doing it well. He is enjoying it. He enjoying serving. He’s not a just a “waiter”. He/she is an artist serving fine wine and truffles on one of the most famous streets in the world. Unfortunately, s/he’s not serving me.
So, my point is that although one can be an artist by painting pictures, I enjoy explaining to people that ask, “to me, being an artist is a philosophy, it is an attitude, it is a style, and a way of life”.
So, what the heck does this have to do with teaching English? Guess! Anybody can be an English teacher. Not everybody can be a good English teacher. And if one is a teacher like the waiter in Paris with that flair, that joie de vivre, that particular style, then yes, that teacher is an artist. Thus, the art of teaching – and teaching well of course.
My little trick in class, especially with my younger English students, is to start the English lesson, then start writing pictures on the blackboard in different colors, pantomiming images and objects, singing songs, making faces, … … whatever. You know… fun things. But what I do is sneak in the dang grammar before they know what hit ‘em. Gee, they’re learning English grammar and hardly notice it… ooops… to late to be bored! Teacher is already jumping up and down like a monkey now! Yes… and how do we spell monkey??? m, o, n.. … … and what does a monkey eat? he eats bananas, third person singular, …. and… … ooops, time to go! That class went by fast! “Don’t forget to do your homework” I say on their way out. “Good bye!” “Bye bye Teacher Sky” they reply. And I smile. We had fun learning that grammar! Hee hee hee!
So, there is an art to being an English teacher. Teaching English to children and students well and effectively, happily, and instilling motivation, and enthusiasm towards learning is an art.
Anybody can throw some paint on a canvass, serve cocktails on a sidewalk cafe, or repeat the alphabet to a class of kids, But it takes an artist to teach your students to learn English well, to develop, and to reach for the sky and stars. And when they graduate, their diploma is their masterpiece; much too priceless to put in an art museum.
Terryl Miller Sky
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