Art on my sleeve

Ever wondered what career path you might have chosen had you not stumbled across the joys of teaching? Of course, the classroom feels like home to me now, but sometimes I find myself pondering the alternatives, from the embarrassing amb-itions of my youth (stunt woman and fashion designer), to the sublime hopes for the future (bestselling critically acclaimed novelist).

This week, I received a little reminder of one of those careers-that-might-have-been. May is officially Museums and Galleries Month - a perfect excuse for a class trip, and a chance for this one-time history of art graduate to play the role of enthusiast, critic and curator.

None of that namby-pamby modern art, mind you. I self-indulgently decided we were destined for the National Gallery's Sainsbury Wing. The home of real painting. Renaissance masters - my topic of degree-level expertise.

It began rather well. Pupils were looking, wondering and sketching, like miniature art students. The sight of them sitting cross-legged on the floor, gazing up at Caravaggio, filled me with hope. I proudly took them to see my most favourite painting ever, Antonello da Messina's St Jerome in his Study, feeling as if I were about to unveil a whole new world of wonder to them. They asked good questions, which I was only too happy to answer.

The trouble was, once I started, I just couldn't stop. A simple: "Miss, why has he painted a peacock next to a dog bowl?" led to a 10-minute monologue about obscure symbolism in Northern European painting.

Fascinating stuff. I bounced around, sparkly eyed and imbued with passion.

They doodled on the soles of their trainers and planned their next trade in Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. Even the hyperactive ones went quiet and started to yawn.

Never mind. At least I can now say I've lived the dream. Kind of Louisa Leaman is a London teacher

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you