Posted on 12/20/2018 at 08:00 AM by Blog Experts

When did you first realize you were an artist? I don’t mean the first time you drew something that actually looked like a dog (don’t know that I’m quite there yet) or sang at church or did a time step. When was the first time that you knew you had something to tell the world, and your art was the way you needed to express it? Or maybe you were a closet artist; you simply needed to express yourself, but you didn’t want anyone seeing your interpretive dance in your bedroom or hearing your heartfelt poetry that you keep hidden in a journal in your underwear drawer.

When did you first realize you were a teacher? Did you always want to teach in the fine arts or, like me, did you think you were destined to teach middle school science and math until you fell out of love with algebra II?   even resisted teaching for a while because, as the daughter of two music teachers, I thought people just expected me to follow in their footsteps.

I was recently at a meeting where the phrase “teaching artist” was used.  It made me uneasy, but not for the reason you may think. You see, whenever people were talking about “teaching artists” they were speaking about community artists that come into our schools in an adjunct or special occasion capacity. They were not speaking of those of us who come day in and day out to teach the fine arts to our students as our main career. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was being thought of as a teacher, not an artist.

But I am an artist. And I am a teacher. I think sometimes we, as teachers, put our own art on the back burner. We’re writing lesson plans, filling in the grade book, going to professional development (which, let’s be honest, is generally more about the teaching part of our job and less about the art part), running rehearsals, presenting student art shows, directing concerts and recitals. And this is all fulfilling; I know we all love to see our students grow and develop as artists. But it doesn’t necessarily develop us as artists.

Since that meeting I’ve been trying to ensure that I pay attention to my own art. And I’ve been trying to remind the teaching artists around me to nurture the artists within them as well.

We all know that self-care is important in our profession. We’re finally getting to the point where we realize that it’s not selfish, it’s essential. As you make time in your life for self-care, please remember that the artist in you needs care and nurturing as well. Take the time to create, perform, respond, and connect (see what I did there?) and get ready to revel in the joy of watching yourself blossom as an artist!

Erin Nelson
Elementary Music Specialist
Morningside Elementary School

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