Visual Journal: Not so Superhero Teacher


Superhero themed visual journal page.

THE BACKGROUND

When I think “superhero” images of Batman, Spiderman, Superman, and the like come to mind. As I went through college we were often told we were going to have the opportunity and ability to change kids’ lives, we were going to become heroes.

Recently I was talking to a future teacher. She was finishing up her degree and working on student teaching. She talked about how excited she was to get out and start teaching, how she wanted to look into inner-city schools, and how she loves the “bad” kids because she feels a need to help them. I remember feeling that way and I also remember my first year of teaching when I had to realize I couldn’t save everyone.

After talking to the soon-to-be teacher I told her I felt the same way she did when I graduated. However, since then I have become more realistic. I learned you can’t help everyone, and if you fully invest yourself into those kids you will take your work home every night and it becomes harder to sleep. After the word realistic tumbled out of my mouth I felt guilty and very cynical, and I am not a cynical person.

THE STORY

At the time I created this page, I was dealing with one of the first students I truly felt lost with. He didn’t want to do anything, he didn’t want to listen to directions, and he didn’t want to be in school. Yet he was in school, and he was there every day. He didn’t have much of a home life, so I had no one to call to help me get him into shape. He was a fifth-year senior. I heard more than one rumor that he had his hand in some drug dealing and various not-so-great things. I tried talking to him, I tried listening, I tried more structure, less structure, compromise, I went to the counselors, I went to the administrators, but what do you do with a student who doesn’t care?

A person who doesn’t care about anything is relieved to be given detention so when he doesn’t show up he gets ISS, then suspension so he has a reason not to come to school. He was the inspiration for this page because eventually, he didn’t come back to school. Finally, I guess he realized there really wasn’t a point because he really didn’t care. I tried so hard, and on more than one occasion I went home and had to lay on the floor, take deep breaths, fighting back tears, and consider other career options.

This page is for him because I wish I could save the day… but I couldn’t. I hope I have helped other students, but he will always be in the back of my mind because in the end, I feel responsible for him not coming back.

THE QUOTE

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure despite overwhelming obstacles.”

I hope to live up to this one day. I guess I have because I continued my job despite the many obstacles and difficult students I didn’t break through with. It feels cynical, I feel more cynical, but maybe it really is more realistic, and sometimes you need that to get through your day.

HOW TO

This is one of the more complex visual journal pages I did initially. Remember, you need to experiment to create interesting pages. Don’t be afraid to try something new.

  1. I printed images of superheroes, cut them out, and glued them to the background on the right page.
  2. I found an interesting American flag image in a magazine and glued it to a sheet of computer paper, then printed the words “I wish I could save the day” repeated, as well as the hero quote, on top of the magazine page.
  3. Next, I printed batman on a transparency sheet (if you try this make sure you get safe to print on transparency sheets… I have melted one in a printer before…). Then cut him out and glued him on top.
  4. I emphasized the quote by outlining it in sharpie.
  5. To tone down the superhero images on the right I watered down gesso and painted a layer on top to create more of a hazy look and help the flag stand out.

Thanks for checking out one of my early visual journal pages, check out more here. Interested in tools to help make your teaching life easier? Check out my art education resources here. Don’t forget to connect on Instagram and TikTok for tutorials and more.

2 responses to “Visual Journal: Not so Superhero Teacher”

  1. Judi Wester says:

    Dear Whitney-I am a retired art teacher and I live next door to your Aunt Lydia. I feel as though I know you and your family as Lydia has spoken of you often. Reading this excerpt, I saw myself in your writing. I had a similar experience when I was teaching junior high. The ones you can’t reach stay in your heart forever. It doesn’t mean you didn’t touch their life in some way-I’m sure you did. It just means that you are a very caring teacher and that’s what your students see in you. They are very lucky to have you!!!

    • It;s great to hear feedback from you! There are definitely a lot of ups and downs with teaching. Luckily these days I feel like I am having more ups than downs, and I hope it stays that way. It’s always nice to hear from retired teachers, congrats for making it all the way to retirement! I’m in my third year and I have thought once or twice about other things I could do with an art degree, but in the end you do it for the kids and it is just too hard to leave them!

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