Over the last few months life has been shook up. It started with a rattle and then the quake began. If you had asked me back in December what 2020 would be like, I would have never guessed this. But the reality is that none of us would have foretold our spring to look like it did.
And for our family, while we have had some tough bouts, we have weathered the storms really well. I don’t say that lightly as I know there are so many out there who have lost family members and friends, who have lost livelihoods, who have lost faith.
I feel incredibly privileged that during these last few months I have been able to be at home with my family. We have been tucked away in our safe little boat while the storm has raged around us.
But being safe in our boat has not blinded us to the plight of others. If anything, we are more aware of those around us that don’t have any boat at all. And it’s because of that knowledge that I can’t just sit on the deck of my boat and tan myself and pretend that things are just going to get better.
As a teacher, I struggled through the spring trying to connect with students. So much of what I do as an art teacher on a daily basis is emotional. It’s connections. It’s face to face feedback and prodding and pushing students outside of their comfort zones. Many people think that teaching art is just lots of “fun” while we “just cut paper and color.” The reality is that much of what I do is forcing students to look at life from a different perspective. It’s challenging students to rethink everything they have been taught to believe about life and color and situations and draw/reflect on actual observation, not what they “think they see.”
Not having real interactions with students for the last 12 weeks of the spring semester left me feeling off and out of touch as I could see from the glimpse of their faces on zoom meetings that my students were struggling and hurting.
And these struggles and hurts didn’t just go away when they turned in their last assignment and called the school year over. Over the last few weeks I’ve seen students voice hurts and fears and frustrations. And I don’t have any platitudes. I don’t have any answers.
I’ve been listening.
I’ve been learning.
I’ve been loving.
That’s all I can do. As a teacher, I am struggling right now trying to figure out my place, my voice, and my role in not just the Black Lives Matter movement but the Pride movement as well. I live in a community that is staunchly conservative and quite vocally Republican. I am listening for words of affirmation, love and support for BLM and Pride, but the silence is deafening. And I am broken because of it.
So here is my promise to my students, my family, my community:
There is a seat at my table for you.
Not just any seat, but a reserved seat of honor with your name on the card.
There is seat at my table for you.
Whether you are privileged or under-privileged.
Whether you are white or a person of color.
Whether you are straight or LGBTQIA+.
Whether you are liberal or conservative.
No matter the label.
No matter how much space you take up physically, emotionally or mentally.
No matter if you bring a dish to share or come empty handed.
There is a place for you.
You are wanted.
You are valuable.
You are loved.
I know that in the past I have been too busy getting things done and focused on the next contest or goal. But I promise you this.
From this day forward, your heart, your peace, and your life are my priority.
With much love,
Here is a time lapse of the watercolor tree painting seen above. I was going to draw the tree, but I found this amazing cut file on Etsy and bought it as it was perfect. May you remember that we need all of the colors on the color wheel to fully enjoy life.