I've been teaching comics at Harlem Children's Zone for almost a year and wanted to share some of my experiences with you. I lead an after-school comics program for high school and middle school students 4 days a week, with a focus on entrepreneurship. In the picture above, the students are selling the mini comics they created at the end-of-semester event in December, and donated all proceeds to charities as an "act of kindness" (which is the HCZ theme for the year). Throughout the fall, it was great seeing the stories the kids came up with, watching them learn to fold the mini comics, get excited about games we played like "The Price Is Right" (to learn about pricing their mini comic products), and much more. We threw a pizza party for the middle school club, who raised the most money (almost $50 for the Red Cross!), and reflected on their experiences selling their comics. The students said it felt good to show other people their artwork and make sales. I could go on forever about how awesome it is teaching these kids, but I'd like the focus of this blog to give you tips if you want to get started teaching comics or any kind of art.
Want to Teach Art?
1. Have a college degree
If you want a more stable, long-term teaching job, this is essential. I started out teaching comic workshops at MoCCA (Museum of Comic & Cartoon Art) and private tutoring, which was great for experience. However, if you want to move to the next level and teach consistently for a part-time job, you must have some kind of college degree. It doesn't even have to be an art-related degree or a master's. The main goal of our program at HCZ is to get kids to college, so it's important for all employees to experience college. Sometimes artists think they can get by without an official degree, and while that may work in some cases, not having a degree will really limit you in the future, even if you can't see it now.
2. Have great communication skills
Not all artists can be good teachers. Sometimes it's difficult to even explain what we're doing, let alone explain everything step-by-step to another person and guide them to create a complete project. If you have an interest in teaching, but feel you may need to "level-up" in this area, watch YouTube art demos or Envato Tuts+ tutorials (a fantastic resource) and study how the presenters break down the material step-by-step.
3. Like and/or can relate to kids/teens
This may sound obvious, but we've all come across some teachers in our lives that probably made us wonder why they chose that profession. Teaching isn't for everyone, and to weather the chaotic times, you've got to have a firm grounding in caring about the students. I find that I relate to the high schoolers by remembering some of my high school experiences, and the middle schoolers and I can bond over animations we like (Dragon Ball Z is STILL popular! And hey I still know about Pokemon!).
Hope you find this helpful. Applying for arts teaching jobs will have other specific components, but I think these 3 points are universal. The arts have been cut drastically from the public school system, but they are much needed for youth development. There are many teaching opportunities in cities, and if there aren't many where you live, MAKE them! If you really want to be an arts teacher, reach out to some organizations in your area and see if they'd be open to incorporating an arts element to their programs.