notquiteold

Nancy Roman

Teacher

I never really expected to reinvent myself at seventy. After all, it took me over sixty years to like myself the way I am. And yet, here I am, trying all sorts of new stuff and being all sorts of new people.

A new/old role for me: Teacher.

Old – because I was a teacher for a brief moment in 1974. I never got much past my student teaching experience. I was an English major in college, intending to be a writer, but at the last moment (I already had more than enough credits to graduate) decided to take the education courses needed for my teaching certification. The extra semester for student teaching in junior high was both fun and horrifying. I had no idea how to teach. Most of the time, I couldn’t engage the students. Looking back on it, I see that I worried more about whether the kids liked me than whether they were learning anything. But there were a couple of moments when it all clicked – and those moments were magical.

New – Here I am 47 years later, finding that I am a teacher again.

This summer, a Connecticut library (not the library where I am currently working) asked me to teach a painting class. The event director had seen my watercolors online, and dreamed up a “Paint Your Pet” class. What a great idea! But I had no experience and wasn’t sure how – or if – I could do it.

But – why not? (which I think is becoming my new mantra.)

So I spent several weeks designing a program to teach a dozen teenagers and adults to paint a portrait of their pet. The library gave me a two-hour slot, which added another level of anxiety.

I needed to practice. My sister, her daughter, and two of her grandchildren offered to take my class, which meant I could practice on folks who loved me. And of course, to see if I could help them produce an acceptable painting in two hours. Oh, and have fun at the same time. I brought a bunch of photos and let them choose.

It WAS fun. Here’s what they painted:

Their ages: 11, 13, 40, and 72. I won’t tell you who did which painting – but I’m fairly certain that if you guess, you’d be wrong.

I was delighted. I COULD do this.

And the next day, the librarian called to say the class had filled up in a matter of days, and they wanted to add a second class.

Sure, I said. I COULD do this.

And I did.

I supplied all the materials, to ensure that everyone had everything they needed. The students brought photos of their pets, and two hours later had a watercolor painting of their babies.

Here are some of their portraits:

I have two more library bookings in the coming months. I think I will contact a few senior centers too. That could be fun.

So far, I have only taught the two classes. But crazily – and perhaps I am reading far too much into it – I think I see a trend.

I taught a variety of students in each class, but each class was also very much the same. They held a good mix of experienced and beginning painters. Both classes were predominantly women with an age range from young adults to quite elderly. But each class also had one man, one preteen, and a couple of teenagers.

And there was a fascinating consistency to their performance.

Let’s start with the men. They were weirdly alike. Although I stressed that they should listen first, paint in the order I suggested, and not jump ahead, both immediately rushed in, and did exactly as they pleased. Then they both got disgusted with their painting halfway through and gave up.

Now, I don’t like to draw conclusions from just two guys, but I couldn’t help but chuckle a little at their unwillingness to listen to directions. And let’s say I was not surprised that they overestimated their abilities and were then disappointed in themselves. But to be fair, one man had come with his wife, and one had brought his teenagers, and it could very well be that they had been cajoled into coming, and were not much interested in the project in the first place.

The younger kids that came were enthusiastic and creative. They were happy to try and also willing to listen. They weren’t babies, so their attention span held up, and they also had confidence in themselves. And they were delighted with their results.

The teenagers were the opposite. Their confidence clocked in at about zero. They thought they were messing everything up, that their paintings were full of mistakes – that their portraits were the very worst in the class. No amount of praise on my part could offset their profound lack of self-esteem.

Then there were the adult women. They represented a broad continuum of age, and they performed along a consistent continuum as well.

The younger women were intense. They were serious and careful. They tried so very hard. They were the last to finish. Look at the paintings above. Pick the ones that are perfect, neat, and detailed. Those are the ones painted by these earnest young women.

My middle-aged students were happy and sociable. They chatted as much as painted. They still wanted good results, and they were proud of their efforts. Each one thought they had exceeded their own expectations. “Look what I did,” one said. “I didn’t know I could do that!”

And the older women! Like the children, they were creative and daring. Their paintings were bold. They laughed at their mistakes. The animals they painted had emotions. These women’s faces – both their own and in their portraits – were relaxed and full of joy.

I am curious to see if these patterns hold up. I think they might. Because in these archetypes and attitudes, I see myself.

I was that confident kid, that insecure teenager, that anxious striving young woman, the accepting middle-aged lady. I even had a moment or two in the man-stage, not having the patience to listen and learn, but still expecting so much of myself.

And now … now I am the old woman. I have given up the self-criticism and judgment. I am focused on the joy.

That makes me a teacher.

23 Comments

  1. What a fascinating trajectory. I feel excited about this new adventure of yours and I enjoyed reading your hypothesis about the changing approaches of students as they grew older. How wise of you to recognize yourself in all those (apparent) types. I hope you keep us up to date as you discover more.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, I’d love to take your class! I’ve always been so impressed with your paintings. Have you ever thought to make a YouTube video (please?)?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. SuzyM

    I love these! Can you be my teacher?!!

    Like

  4. Doris Kennedy

    Nancy Dube, you will always be Dube to my young mind, YOU are an amazing woman, artist, teacher and most of all an accomplished writer. You have checked all the boxes in your lifetime. So sorry to have lost you as my very first and best friend so many long years ago. My 21 year old granddaughter strives to be a writer and I often share your posts with her. And she, being an English Major, and hopefully, one day being a writer also, agrees completely. Until we meet again…enjoy life and be JOYFUL

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Kathy Zurcher

    I suggested a zoom or FaceTime class so we would pay Nancy for her time and talent, but do it from where we are. I can appreciate that would be a huge burden on Nancy. My latest fantasy is to sign up for her class at the library in her hometown and take a short vacation trip to Connecticut. Maybe if you are teaching next Fall I will surprise you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dawn Allison

    Another fascinating gem from my favorite keyboard artist. Always interesting, always a breath of fresh air. If you wrote on cereal boxes I would read your words. Thank you for sharing your stories.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Helen

    I want to take your class! Playing around with watercolor is fun for me but I don’t know in what order to paint. Wish I was closer and I’d be the first to sign up!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You are amazing

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m so delighted that you’ve found something that you love as much as writing, and that you’re sharing it with new people. You’re giving them a gift for life 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. How lovely……… and what talent they have!

    Like

  11. These students’ paintings are great … they must have a good teacher!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I think the students paintings are great. I especially like that grumpy looking grey cat and the laughing dog. It was so interesting to hear your descriptions of each type of student. I’d be interested to know if that repeats itself in future.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. The paintings are brilliant. I wish I could attend your class.
    And your assessment of personalities – spot on I would think. I would not have thought of them myself, but I had aha moments through every description.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. What fun to see what your students are creating! Thank you for sharing – and thank you for following JanBeek. I’ll be back on WordPress with my Embrace series as soon as I get back in the USA and can free up space to post these wonderful photos I’ve been taking to record our European adventures.

    Like

  15. One of the best-kept secrets of aging, especially for women, is the blooming of creativity, boosted by an easy confidence. At 76, I am more creative and comfortable in my own skin, white hair, wrinkles and all, than I’ve ever been in my life. The paintings are wonderful. You have a new calling!

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Barbara Miller

    Oh I wish you were here or I was there. I’d love to take the class. I am always surprised how difficult drawing or painting is for me. It is like the first time I went ice skating, I thought I would just glide around the ice. Did not happen. When I paint it never looks like I pictured it in my mind. Maybe one day I’ll find someone to teach me.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. You can certainly tell how good you are as a teacher by the quality of the students’ work. Well done! Wish I could take your class (if you ever offer it through Zoom, please let us know!)

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I loved this! And I wish you could come to Michigan and teach your class to me.

    Like

  19. How wonderful…for you and those in the class.

    Like

  20. doggydance3

    Those are great drawings!

    Like

  21. doggydance3

    And paintings!

    Like

  22. sdprairie

    Nancy,
    I have admired your paintings for as long as I have followed you. I would love to take a course with you! You are inspiring!

    Like

  23. I love that you are doing this! Your lovely paintings of Theo touch my heart every time I see them. You are the perfect person to share your talent with students. Kudos to the woman who thought to ask you and kudos to you for taking it on. You never cease to impress!

    Like

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