If you’re reading this right now, you know that I am an optimistic / positive person: I like to see the best in people and situations and I enjoy being happy. While this is true, it’s also key to not allow positivity to become toxic. Ignoring or repressing difficulties creates a pressure cooker where the situation can erupt and cause more widespread harm.
It is only October and already this school year is incredibly difficult. Students and teachers are having to deals with trauma from the pandemic: isolation, death of family, sickness/illness, constant anxiety from the virus, gun violence, families loosing jobs/income ON TOP OF already existing stressers like poverty due to institutional racism and classism, food and housing insecurity, addiction and substance abuse, etc.
In an attempt to acknowledge and bring to light the negative experiences we are navigating, the first art project of the year we created “Black Out Artwork” where students 1) reflected and wrote about a challenging experience, 2) circled the positive, or what they learned they value, 3) drew images that celebrates those positive words, and then 4) used black markers to cover the pain and/or struggle from the experience. The result was a cathartic process and profoundly beautiful artwork. Check out the artwork below; click the right arrow to see closeups of the art (and follow the Visual Art Instagram page for more art 😀 )
Mentally, emotionally, physically, I am already exhausted. It’s not just me – it is teachers across every grade around the country. The trauma that I spoke of above, results in students being restless, distracted, easily frustrated, prone to outbursts, absent, and behind in learning. This is very difficult for teachers to manage and attend to throughout the day. There are so many students, and so many of their needs demand personal, intimate, trusting, close relationships with their teachers. In response to this, for my graduate school digital illustration class, I created GIFs of the ABCs of Teacher Life. They are sarcastic, jaded, but also deeply heart-based interpretations of what teachers see and go through on a daily basis. I started with thumbnail sketches, and am in the process of animating my final works. Take a look at the work in progress:
Although I hope things get easier, at this point, I can’t say they will. They will likely get harder as the weather gets colder, we go into flu season, and holiday breaks interrupt learning. And I’m not going to say I’ll be fine, or that I shouldn’t worry about it or that it’s not a big deal. Instead, I will be present with this difficulty while it’s here.