My Mean Old Art Teacher
Mr. Arnold stands smugly by his classroom door between classes, with his arms proudly crossed over his chest as trails of students trample past his art room each day. Many of the passers-by recognize this man simply as "the scary art teacher." Those who have experienced Mr. Arnold's art class first-hand regard him otherwise.
I had heard many stories about Mr. Arnold before entering his grueling class. "Most people don't like him," some warned me. Others commented, "I've heard his class is really difficult." I can remember my first day in his art class clearly. I entered his room a timid freshman with unpleasant expectations. Maybe I was even a little more than timid. The concept of high school frightened me, and having a teacher with a bad reputation didn't ease my fears. I was a sheltered fourteen-year old girl; a girl who had been babied most of her life. I entered room 28 for the first time on a warm late-summer's afternoon, as the sun's rays attempted to soothe me through the windows. The poignant smell of oil paint filtered through the air, soft classical music drifted from his office and impressive artwork decorated the walls. Mr. Arnold always insisted, much to the students' opposition, that, "Classical music puts you in the right mind set to create art. It will not distract you, it will force you to focus." The shelves juggled piles of aged art supplies and half-filled canvases doffed the edges of the room. Mr. Arnold loomed in front of the class with his pointer, a man with frosty silver hair and an undeniable bald spot, unraveling his list of arduous requirements. "Art is not an easy B", he smirked, making reference to a sign on the wall, and squinting at us with his sharp icy eyes. "Furthermore," he added, "if you don't enjoy art, I'd suggest switching out of my class immediately." He kept his lips pursed tightly and gave off such a cold stoicism he made me shudder. Even his smile seemed somewhat devious. He was one of those teachers who wore a crisp, handsome suit and tie every day, even on those designated "dress down days".
Of course, he intimidated me. Each day, Mr. Arnold sat at his desk, intensely scribbling in answers to crossword puzzles in the daily Philadelphia Inquirer as I diligently attempted to please him, sitting at a smudged, paint-spattered table, bent over my work. Occasionally he would get up from his seat and slowly wander around the room. He would shout out commands, his cheeks ruddy and pink. "Dark darks!" he repeated. "Don't forget to look! Draw what you see!" If Mr. Arnold saw someone struggling, he would never pick up a student's pencil and do the work. "If I draw something for you, it becomes my artwork. I want you to create your own art," he always lectured when a whining student approached him. He simply guided us. I drew intensely, inspired by his advanced students' beautiful artwork that surrounded me. On rare occasions he would brag about an honors student, and show...