How to Chart Your Own Course

1. What is one sentence you would use to describe who you are and what you do?

Professionally, I am an educator and an artist.

2. Did you take the GRE? If so, what was your experience studying for the GRE like?

I actually did not take the GRE because I was part of an education fellowship that allowed for me to attend graduate school without it. At the time I was so relieved because standardized tests were not my strong suit at all. I still wonder if I would have attended a graduate school program if I had to take the GRE. I was so intimidated by it and being able to attend grad school without it opened a lot of doors for me. I consider myself incredibly lucky. 

3. Why did you decide to go to grad school? What program did you attend? How did you choose your specific program? 

 I attended the Azrieli Graduate School for Jewish Education and Administration as part of the Legacy Heritage Fellowship program. The two-year fellowship was geared toward first or second year teachers to create a cohort where we could all learn from each other’s successes and challenges in teaching. We took formal graduate courses over the course of three summers and throughout the school year we stayed connected through assignments, readings, and conferences. It was an amazing entry into the world of education; I not only had a lot of experience putting my studies into practice, but I had a whole group of people I could learn from and lean on. I didn’t really choose where I was going to attend graduate school, I simply chose to apply to this fellowship and had the great fortune that the graduate degree came along with it. 

4. How do you feel your graduate degree has impacted your career?

 I think having an advanced degree makes people take me more seriously as an educator and therefore impacts my career. Of the many classes I attended in grad school, three of them made a very significant impact. The rest…not as much. I wonder how I would feel about the degree if I was still paying off loans for it, as opposed to having the good fortune of getting it for free. 

One very big thing I learned was that everything I thought I learned in school didn’t really compare to the actual learning experience of being a teacher in the classroom.  I am not putting down the value of learning about education from my professors-I learned a lot and I am grateful for it. I learned significantly more from my students, colleagues, and educational mentors though, because I was putting into practice the things I had learned about in the grad school classroom. 

I currently work as an artist and private art educator, primarily teaching  small group art lessons for kids. I started my career as a teacher in schools, but after deciding to take a break from formal education, I realized how freeing it was to be my own boss. I started off working as an artist and taking a full break from education. After two years, I realized I missed learning with students, and I had a desire to get back into a classroom in some way.  It was then that I started to dream up a plan for the future-a studio space for myself and for anyone who would want to come make art with me; classes, workshops, events…all in the same space. I still have ideas and plans for this studio, but they’re currently on hold.

In the meantime, I’ve been able to get back into teaching through private group lessons for kids (and the occasional adult workshop), and I feel so energized by it. I still love being my own boss, but I will add that there was (and still is) a strong learning curve on figuring out how to run my own business. I’m still learning a lot and there’s a part of me that is so afraid of taking a big step into the direction of my dream job. Taking risks is scary, but I have an incredibly supportive partner who is always reminding me that risks are necessary to move forward. Knowing my limitations in any given moment is also helpful. Right now, Covid-19 and giving birth to my first child pushed off this dream business idea for a little while longer, but I’m still thinking about it and writing notes and ideas as they come to me during this strange holding period. 

5. Do you have any advice for someone interested in pursuing Education and the Arts?

Remember that your students are whole people and that your class is not their whole life. They come into your classroom carrying every single bit of themselves. So be kind, assume best intent, never judge them (especially not based on first impressions or siblings). The most challenging students for you are the ones who need you the most. And the most important thing to remember: our egos have no place in the classroom or in education, ever. 

To learn more about Ruthie, check out her website or follow her on Instagram.

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