I had always expected to someday work as an art teacher in the public schools, but hadn’t thought about it in terms of no-pay, no boss, no resume, no pressure part-time work just for the fun of it. That turned out to be one of the most satisfying and confidence-building undertakings of my checkered teaching life.
My youngest son was in fourth grade and every year during the second semester the school offered the students a chance to explore some subjects not ordinarily covered in the regular curriculum. There was a request for volunteers to teach these “enrichment classes.” I had been teaching my kids how to cook, along with some of the other things that everybody should know – like keeping themselves, their clothing and their own rooms reasonably clean. It’s called being responsible for yourself and we all have to break away from the apron strings and be accountable for ourselves at some point. I didn’t think those basic skills needed to be put off too long. Once the kid is tall enough to see over the kitchen counter, it’s time to start teaching him to cook. With my boys, I had learned that they liked to cook because they liked to eat. And, they were most interested in learning to cook the foods that they liked best. I’m sure you can see this coming: My son asked me to teach a boys’ cooking class.
We started with a no-bake banana cream pie. We made a crumb crust with graham crackers, sugar and soft butter, pressed it into a pie pan, filled it with sliced bananas and instant vanilla pudding and covered it with whipped topping. The second favorite part of this recipe, from the boys' point of view, was pounding a plastic bag full of graham crackers to make crumbs. The top favorite was, of course, eating the finished pie.
Next, we made a taco salad. We cooked the ground beef in my electric skillet, seasoned it and spooned it onto torn lettuce. Then they added whatever toppings they desired: chopped onion and bell peppers, sliced olives, diced tomatoes and avocado, shredded cheese, sour cream and salsa. They ate it using cheese-flavored tortilla chips as scoops. We also made spaghetti and meatballs and another boy-favorite, grilled cheese sandwiches.
After visiting with Judy Clark, the elementary art teacher, I agreed to teach a series of classes in three-dimensional art when the enrichment program came around the following year. We made wire sculptures mounted on blocks of wood donated by the local lumberyard. We made large papier-mâché animals using newspapers and wallpaper paste; we made \cement candles