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Interview with an Art Teacher

Thoughts from down under…

Patrick McIlroy is one of three art teachers at the International English School in Liljeholmen, and I’m excited to say I’ll be joining his department from August this year, albeit in a minor role as art teacher for year 4 students. Observing him this term has been an inspirational and  informative experience and has really got me thinking about teaching art on a full-time basis. Mr. McIlroy has given me a few minutes of his time to answer some questions about what it’s like to be an art teacher and teaching in a Swedish school. Take a look!

How long have you been teaching, and what’s your background?

I’ve been teaching for over 7 years now. I was born and raised in Perth, Western Australia but completed my education in Tokyo, where I graduated with a bachelor in Visual Communication. I hope that my foreign training can make my lessons interesting and exciting.

What is the most stressful part of beginning a career as an art teacher?

Teaching is a career that demands understanding, compassion, and a lot of patience. It doesn’t matter who you are teaching, from young children to adults, all people learn differently, and I think the worry comes from trying to be accommodating to all the learning styles.

What is the best part of being an art teacher?

Some of the best parts of teaching art is showing pupils how to use materials, techniques, and relating work we do today in class to the history of art. Combining the old with the new. The students activity and learning processes in the classroom are fantastic, too.

What do you find the most rewarding about being an art teacher?

Many things are rewarding being a teacher. It’s so inspiring when a student produces work that just blows you away! I always make copies or keep some of this stuff for future reference – asking the students first of course! It’s also great when a student clicks and a project or idea just comes together and they really push themselves to achieve something no-one expects of them.

Have you ever been asked to teach an art subject you were unfamiliar with? What was it, and how quickly did you have to learn it?

Yes, I have been asked to teach unfamiliar subject matter in art. My first year in Sweden, I was asked to work on backdrops for a theater production class. I had to work with the English teacher to create a set that mirrored a modern day production of Alice in Wonderland. I did a lot of research in drama and drama production to be successful with that project.

How do you handle difficult students and tough situations in the classroom?

I pride myself in teaching and giving all students the same chance. Communication is key in any difficult classroom situation. Everybody has a voice, and understanding and listening are key to handling difficult situations.

How do you balance your regular life with that of being a teacher?

As an art teacher, I manage to balance my life in many ways. These are some of the most important balancing factors for me:

• staying creative and being active as an artist

• continuing to study art, reading and further education courses

• keeping active in showing my art

• staying current in art exhibitions/trends both locally and around the world.

Friendships, colleagues, staying in touch with family overseas and exercise are also good outlets. In my free time, I love learning languages, cooking and going into the outdoors.

Do you have any advice for people entering the teaching profession as an art teacher? What do you wish someone told you before you started?

My advice for anybody entering the teaching profession is to enjoy what you teach and to show compassion/understanding to your students in any situation. I wish someone would of told me to write down or record in some way (maybe digitally!) some of the everyday student encounters. Everyday is interesting!



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