For the past few days I have been trying to understand my angry reaction to the substitute teacher who filled in for my painting instructor last week. After the first 10 minutes, I was ready to walk out of a class that has been the highlight of my week for the past couple months. His style left me feeling assaulted. I was so uncomfortable I felt like I couldn’t do anything right – not mix my paint right, or make a brush stroke right, see the colors right. Rather than feeling joyful, it felt like such a struggle. Though everything he was trying to teach was technically helpful, I felt completely judged and inadequate. I was happy to escape at the end of the class.
I was fuming all the way home about the fact that he ruined my class and a bit angry at myself but not exactly sure why. I’m sure he was just trying to help. I’ve been trying to figure out the lessons since.
I totally wanted to tell him to just leave me alone and let me paint. But I didn’t. Every time he walked around the class and stopped to look at what I was doing I cringed inside, ready for the next “criticism”. There were things I learned that I will use but at that time I felt paralyzed to actually paint in the class. It gave me a glimpse of what it must feel like to be a child in school when every day is a struggle to live up to what is expected.
So why didn’t I speak up and ask him to leave me alone? Why didn’t I say, you are making me nervous and I just need some quiet space? Why did I quietly/respectfully accept his “teaching”, not want to cause a scene? Why did I feel like it would be “a scene” to ask for what I needed?
I still haven’t quite figured this all out. But I do know that I do much better with my current teacher whose guiding philosophy is to help people “make their own marks” and “find their own style”. While some people would be frustrated with lessons that aren’t focused on a highly specific technique or goal, this learn as you go approach has helped me to reconnect with my joy of creating. Maybe one day, I will want to take some classes with a teacher who is more focused on technique but right now I am content to be joyful.