Stemen 1 Danielle Stemen Prof. Presnell English 1103 20 Feb.

2013 “A” for Affiliation “If you hear a voice within you say, ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means, paint, and that voice will be silenced.” Van Gogh was probably referring to that “voice” as Mrs. P, my high school art teacher. I am passionate about what I do, and most people generally seem to appreciate that. Mrs. P, on the other hand, did not. Out of all of the people who should have been significant in developing my art career, my own art teacher is the only one who failed to fulfill her sole purpose as an instructor. In my junior year art class, we had what Mrs. P called “art critiques” after we finished a project. After we turned in our projects, Mrs. P would grade them. After she finalized grades, she would administer class critiques. These critiques consisted of the class going out into the hallway, sitting down, while one student stood in front of everyone, holding up his or her artwork. The rest of the class was supposed to guess what grades we each got on our piece. Our teacher would grade us on each element and principle: 18-20 points meant that your work was exceptional and required little to no improvement. 15-17 points meant that your work was conventional, unimpressive. 13-15 points meant that your work was unsatisfactory and needed a sufficient amount of work; Mrs. P considered 13-15 points to be embarrassing. We always had about a week or two to finish a project. One week, I slaved away on a realistic piece of an old couple, done in graphite and charcoal. I used up every second of the short 90 minutes I received every day at school. And when I got home, I pushed my other

Stemen 2 homework to the side. Forget finding the derivative of the curve or analyzing Shakespeare. I had artwork to do. I worked every day for a week; I would spend four or five extra hours after I got home from school, hunched over my table under a dim light, shading, contouring, erasing, and sharpening my 4B pencil. I would get lost. It would get to 3 am before I’d descend back to earth from my own planet far, far away. I was pleased with the finished result. I got a ton of compliments on this particular artwork. It was a portrait of an old couple, embracing and kissing, meant to epitomize the meaning of true love and loyalty. I was commended on my use of texture, contrast, and value. I was told that the piece had a lot of depth and dimension and looked very realistic. These compliments came from students who were extremely talented artists, so their opinions were considered very valuable to me. I turned it in to Mrs. P, confident that she would give me a sufficient grade.

A couple of days later, she returned the pieces back to us, grades and all. I had received somewhere between a low B and a C. My heart sunk, weighed down by disappointment. Even though it wasn’t perfect, I knew it was a lot better than what 95% of the other kids had done. The kids in my class lacked the drive and passion that I had. Mrs. P played favorites; she gave good

Stemen 3 grades to the kids who did really poorly in art—she felt bad for them. Frankie, for example, was terrible at art. I’m not trying to be rude or discouraging, but it was the truth. He didn’t try at all; he took the class because he thought it would be an easy A…and it was for him. I compare his work to preschool kids’ finger paintings—and even that is kind of a stretch. At least preschool kids have creativity and imagination. He used generic pictures of sunsets as inspiration and he finished his pieces in one class period, maybe even less. Mrs. P just gave him good grades because she felt sorry for him. She also only gave good grades to the students who had artistic parents that she was friends with. If I was an art teacher, I would give a student an A if they put effort into their art, if they used all of their time to improve their work, making it the best it could possibly be. If you didn’t try, I wouldn’t reward you with a good grade. I already hate the idea of grading artwork, but if I had to do it, I would base grades on effort and drive and passion. Not pity. Not personal relationships. I would grade fairly. It was all about people-pleasing with Mrs. P. Anyway, back to the critiques. After I received my grade, scoring between 15 and 17 in every category, I was pretty bummed. As my classmates and I gathered in the hallway, I was feeling pretty nervous and discouraged. I was embarrassed and anxious. “Is my work really that bad?” “Maybe my piece isn’t as good as I thought.” I waited, dreading my turn. When I was up, I was confused at the reaction I got. I thought my work was terrible—my grades surely reflected that. I was definitely not expecting the praise I got. Everyone was telling me how talented I was, how skilled I was. I remember turning beet red, like I always do when someone commends my work. After the compliments dwindled down, and people stopped gushing, they started to guess what scores I got in each category. “Okay. Contrast—what do you guys think I got?”

Stemen 4 “19! 20! 20!” “No, 15.” They were astonished. They were appalled. “There’s no way,” I head a few say. “Mrs. P is insane,” I heard one say. I kept going through the elements and principles, asking them to guess. Each time, the responses I got were at least 19. And this was coming from some pretty talented artists. By the time I got to the very last category, everyone in my class was just angry and stunned. I wasn’t really angry; I just kind of accepted my grade. However, I can’t say the same for my classmates. A few of my peers marched back into the class room to ask Mrs. P what her problem was. They told her that my grade was totally off, and they demanded her to re-grade my work. Of course, being bombarded with so many students telling her that she was wrong was too much for my teacher to handle. She instantly went through my rubric again, scoring me the way my class thought my work ought to be scored. The same day this happened, a few of my other teachers happened to stroll into the class room. (The art room constantly had visitors; teachers casually checking out the art work, old art students visiting Mrs. P, etc.) My calculus teacher, Mrs. Gaither, was in the room for some reason and she came over to say hello. When she saw my artwork, she instantly praised me. Mrs. P overheard her telling me that I had a real talent and to keep up the awesome work. My English teachers, Tarleton and Mrs. Cable, also visited the art room that day. They came over to talk, and again, commended my work. They even told Mrs. P how skilled they thought I was. I will always remember Mrs. P’s response. “Oh yes, Danielle is one of my most talented students. She’s one of my favorite students,” she said, smiling at me. I thought it was complete bull. It was complete bull. She just wanted to seem like she knew talent when she saw it. Up until this

Stemen 5 particular day, Mrs. P paid no mind to me or my work. She just graded me poorly because I wasn’t significant to her social life. After this day, my works always received perfect scores. I never received below an A. After this day, Mrs. P constantly complimented my work, volunteered me to work on big projects, like helping with senior tiles and painting sceneries for theatre productions. She showed me off, displayed my work in the hallway. It angered me. I wanted her to recognize my work on her own; I wanted her honest opinions and her honest critiques. I wanted an art teacher. I wanted to be taught. I wanted her to be useful in my art career. I actually appreciated it when she gave me average grades; it made me want to work harder, even if I didn’t have to. She is probably what pushed me to become an even better artist. She forced me to be my own critic. I have learned to critique my own work in order to improve it. Although I still believe that Mrs. P is an awful teacher, I am thankful to her in a way. By the end of the class period, I realized that I can never again allow anyone else to hold me back. Whether it be faulty teaching methods or people kissing up to me, I have to see past that—I have to continue to do what I know about art.

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