Becoming Your Job

I just had a realization of newly found self-awareness, characterized by recently-middle-aged complacence and an “I guess that’s fine” acceptance.

I realized that I write posts in my recipe book blog in the exact same format as my assignments.

  1. Narrative
  2. Bullet Points
  3. Narrative

In the case of my assignments, it was:  1. Narrative Description, 2. Bullet Points of Requirements, 3. Narrative Explaining how the Assignment will be Graded and Reaffirming Key Concepts that the Assignment Addresses.

For the recipes, it is: 1. Narrative Sentence or Two About the Circumstances, 2. Recipe/Process in bullet points, 3. Narrative Account of Positive and Negative Qualities About the Meal.

When I was teaching, especially in studio foundations classes (that have higher percentages of freshman who are still in recovery from high school as well as “art is a blow-off class” doofuses), I developed the format over a few years of attempting to balance the expectation that my students would be adults some day and would care about doing well whatever they did, and the reality that that was not yet an accurate description of most of them.  It was also intended to leave breathing room for students who were already self-directed and mature.  Initially, it was also a response to assertions on evaluations that students didn’t understand how they had been graded.  Sure, I had thought I was pretty clear when I commented on the work during group critiques and when I gave them written feedback afterward.  But, I did my best to find a way to be clearer and writing in bullet points bracketed by narratives seemed like a way to do it.  Because, you know, you have to at least try to want to reach the kids who won’t read the assignment or listen to you while you explain it…

Eventually, for the most part, I stopped receiving those comments.   To my final semester, however, I continued to see a scattering of “our creativity was limited in this class” comments. (equals this class isn’t good.)  The assignment format – following on the heels of my syllabus, course intro, lectures, admonitions, advice, critiques, descriptions, insights, provocations, heart to hearts, dry assertions, the course catalog description, and years of art education history – of course, was also an ongoing attempt to clarify that, yes, there really are parameters around what you’re supposed to do in a college credit art class.  Furthermore, those “limitations” reflect efforts to focus on specific core competencies in the field.  And, yes, there are specific core competencies in all of the myriad facets of the art field.  It seems that around 10-15% of intro level art students believe it is a class where they are supposed to do whatever they want and then be given an “A” for it.  The art faculty’s task is to explain over and over that there is indeed specific and delineated subject matter, then to outline the divisions of objective and subjective concepts within that subject matter.  And so, I developed a way of writing assignments that could be straightforward in explaining that grades were based on an exhibition of competent use of specific concepts (especially in a foundations class) and not, absolutely not, a judgment or proclamation about a student’s personal character, innate creative ability (a concept I have very little belief in anyway), or their personal “vision”.

Now, here I am writing out my recipes online and how do I go about doing it?

What if, no matter what I do, deep down inside I’ll always be a teacher of art to college underclass(wo)men?

Yeah.  Huh. I can deal with that…

Then again, perhaps my next direction, once it accepts me and reciprocates  some livlihood, will morph me into something different and new-ish.


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