Those of my readers who know me in RL know that in a previous life I worked as a teacher. Up until now I was more than happy to have left that career behind me. Teaching itself was always fun – I particularly loved dealing with the 14- to 16-year-old age group. Puberty at its best – maybe I was so good at dealing with them because I never left that permanent state of awkwardness myself? In any case, when I left teaching, it was a relief – because I hated grading my pupils. It never felt right to me to discourage them with bad grades. Big Mummy Bear Sonja always wanted to encourage them with positive feedback. Not an option in a results-oriented environment like school.
So off I went, easing myself out of the business by moving my teaching activities to a third-level institution, then to a language instruction magazine and then into the world of marketing before I finally arrived in the realm of media and photography where I am now at my happiest. But who would have thought that a “blast back into the past” would prove to be such a fun, gratifying experience?
I am just back from a day teaching. But not my dreary old, cerebral subjects of History and English Lit and Language, but — Photography!!! The job landed in my lap through sheer luck and I have loved every second of it. Turns out that this is actually a marriage of my hard-earned and studied skills of teaching and my passion for photography. And even though my students today were not necessarily interested in photography beyond its documentary value for their own area of expertise, I enjoyed passing on my knowledge in an appropriate, applied and meaningful way to them. What I got out of it – apart from an insight in my own talents and skills – was a large number of really brilliant photos that I produced together with my students and models – a class of make-up students in a third-level institution in Co. Dublin. The girls became most receptive to my instruction when I actually allowed them back into their comfort-zone – doing make-up – and then popped them in front of the camera to take some portfolio pics for them.
Some of the girls were absolute naturals in front of the camera – playing around, cheekily posing and generally not being afraid to look funny. They were the best shots of the day. Like the one above – approprately wintery with the gloves and hat and an understated winter make-up (I suppose… what do *I* know about make-up…). This was a truly humanist experience, as if the Humbold brothers had written it up for me (See what I am doing here??? Yeah, showing off that I still know my history of teaching…). This is what teaching is supposed to do. Not just the passing on of knowledge from the instructor to the instructed, but a mutually beneficial interaction in which the instructor receives ideas, inspiration and insight from the students. I’d love to do it again – I would have never thought that I would ever say that…