Friday, August 31, 2012

Back to School

Summer vacation slipped by quickly and before I knew it I was back in Mussoorie for my fourth year. I completed my original three-year contract in June and have verbally committed to stick around for one additional year - it seemed like the right choice for many reasons. 

Staying for a fourth year appealed to me mostly because I figured I would have more time to invest as I wanted to, rather than spending most of my energy figuring out (stumbling through) how systems work here - truly the most difficult aspect of living/working at Woodstock. After three years, I now have a solid working knowledge of how to get things done and how to competently head the department. I figured I could focus a lot of energy in documenting various aspects of the art department so that the next HOD could pick up where I left off. After three years of a changing department, this year looked promising - a well-oiled machine. Perhaps I would also have time for some personal projects!

Who was I to think life at Woodstock would be predictable and easy? In retrospect, it's a naive perspective - haven't I been here long enough to anticipate that things rarely go smoothly?

During the summer vacation, I found out that the open art position hadn't been filled. A few weeks later, I found out that Katie, who joined the department last year, was diagnosed with a serious intestinal illness and would be returning at least 6 weeks late. 

Apart from the seriousness of being two teachers down in a department of three, I had a bit of fun introducing myself to the new staff - "Hi, I'm Nan. I am the art department." The reality of being solo isn't quite as funny. I'm teaching extra classes, managing three art rooms and more art supplies than I can count, coordinating with substitutes, answering to every question anyone could possibly have related to art, and trying to problem solve short-term (now until Katie returns), middle-term (Katie's return until a new teacher is hired for February), and long-term (February and beyond) solutions. As you can imagine, there is a lot of juggling, exhaustion, and exasperation. 

Studio 1 looking goofy using viewfinders for a still-life.
Teaching has proven to be the easiest (and most rejuvenating) part of the job. I'm teaching 6 classes: Grade 8 (2 sections), Digital Media, Studio 1, and AP Studio Art (2 sections). I've never taught Grade 8 before, but am enjoying the craziness of it. (My belief that middle school students are a different species is affirmed everyday.) Digital Media is proving itself to be my favorite subject to teach. I'm also really enjoying a new batch of Studio 1 students - we're starting with observational drawing and I often draw along with them during class as a stress-reliever. My AP classes are really small this year, but it's exciting to have more time to coach each student individually.

One victory of the new school year: the kiln shed (far
 right) is built! (as seen from my classroom)
Katie is aiming to be back and in full action by Sept 17. Administration has decided not to hire another art teacher until February, so we'll still be overloaded with classes and extra work for the remainder of the semester.

Because of this decision, there is some incredibly exciting news - my parents are coming! Mom is going to volunteer for six weeks to teach the Junior School classes (Grades 1-6) and help write curriculum. Dad will join her for two weeks to help set up the clay center. The Onkka Family Art Department! It will be great to have their expertise.

I've drawn a number of comparisons between my current situation and the monsoon.  Most of the time it is a difficult existence - mold, rain, and limited visibility. My body craves sunshine, like my mind craves solace from an exhausting work situation. Thankfully there are glimmers of sunshine that are just enough to remind me of the gloriously sunny season that comes next. Things will be looking a little sunnier in a matter of weeks.

View of the Doon Valley from my classroom.


Katie said...

Sounds stressful, but amazing that your parents are going to go teach! How will it feel to be their boss?

Rose Arrowsmith DeCoux said...

Crazy, Nan. I can't believe you're doing all of it. Life at Wilderness was decent preparation, I suppose. Good luck!