Teachers and Education
I often think about influential teachers I have had at different times of my life.
Often, the value of a good teacher is not appreciated until years later, which is really unfortunate.
As a boy, I attended a one room school house in rural Lanark County, Ontario - where one teacher managed all of the grades from one through to eight. There were six year old and 13 year old students sharing the same class room.
Today this would seem odd... unmanageable I suppose, but not then.
Our teacher Mrs. Barr, who had started teaching at the young age of eighteen, had everything well under control.
We were all treated with kindness and respect. Going to school was a pleasure, and we all learned in an enriched environment.
Mrs. Barr said to me, “I think you will be a scientist one day, because you are always asking so many questions about everything”.
I am an artist; not a scientist, but I still question almost everything.
In high school I had several excellent teachers, but one I think of fondly is Mr. Tom Graham.
Not only was he my gym and health teacher, but he was also my guidance counselor.
It was he who said, “I think you have a lot of artistic talent and you should consider going to the Ontario College of Art in Toronto.”
If he hadn't appreciated my talents, and made that suggestion, I don't know where I might have ended up.
I put together a portfolio of my work, submitted it to OCA, and lo and behold, I was accepted...surprise, surprise....
I will say that I was pretty nervous about going to The Ontario College of Art...all of those teenage insecurities were at play. Am I talented enough to go there? Can I handle the work I'll have to do? Where will I live? I was going there with only my raw talent, and no art training at all.
As it turned out, I really enjoyed being at art school in the wild days of the early 1970's.
I made many new friends, studied things I had never heard of, and got to know some amazing artists/ teachers.
The four years I spent in Toronto were as much an education in Life as Art. “Experience” is also a very good teacher.
One of my favourite teachers at OCA was Aba Bayefsky, who had been a war artist during WWII.
When he left the army he went to OCA to study, and continued to teach watercolour there for many years to come.
He gave good direction to students, was always patient, pleasant, and offered constructive criticism that really helped me.
Another great teacher was Eric Friefeld who taught me drawing and was also an excellent watercolourist.
He had a gentle, kind manner and a good sense of humour.
Like Aba, Eric also offered wonderful advice on how to improve your work.
I always looked forward to my drawing and watercolour classes, in which I excelled.
When I was in my fourth year there, I was nominated for a watercolour scholarship.
June Drutz who taught me costume drawing, and Franklin Arbuckle were also outstanding people and teachers.
It is with great fondness that I think of my time in OCA classes!
In 1984, after graduating from the education program at Queen's University, I officially became a teacher.
I take the responsibilities this title carries very seriously.
The keys to being a good, or even great teacher are to have a warm personality, know your subject, and understand the needs and concerns of your students.
Don't take for granted that they know things, and always ask if they understand what you are trying to teach them.
I have been a practicing artist for forty-one years now, and a teacher for thirty-one years.They have been wonderful years, and I still enjoy painting and teaching as much as ever!
When students tell me,"I see the world differently because of your class,"I am very pleased!
I like to think that what I have learned, and can pass on to others will somehow make their lives happier, and the world a better place.
© Blair T. Paul, all rights reserved
Edited and posted by: Chris MacFarlane Photography
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Welcome to my blog.
I'll be writing on a regular basis about my experiences as a painter over the last forty years. I hope you'll share your thoughts and comments with me - it's a great way to be connected.
Blair T. Paul