It's September. Time to shift into high gear and really get prepared for the new school year, which starts officially in two days. I think I did an excellent job extending summer vacation for as long as possible this year! It was so sprawling and free - a time to recharge, reinvent, dive into passions, and focus more attention on developing talents and skills that aren't related directly to my job but ultimately enhance my teaching practice nonetheless. It's always a transition when the new year begins and I have to readjust to the routine and workload and to the physical and emotional demands of training a new crop of kindergartners. But this, too, shall pass.
I will miss
having the freedom to write essentially whenever the inspiration hits.
Time once again to carry around a small notepad to jot down ideas to
develop later when I have a chance - and hope that some of the energy
and spirit behind the ideas will still be there at that time. On the
other hand, I will appreciate getting steady paychecks for the next ten
I often envy my friends who are full-time
artists and wish I could take that leap of faith and do it, too. Jump
out of the bureaucracy that sucks the passion out of the best
intentions, and work on my writing and photography full-time, thus
expanding the walls of my classroom. I imagine how liberating it must be
to have the freedom of greater mobility and the time to create without
having to compromise sleep, for there are only so many hours in a day.
I also understand the realities of the artist lifestyle. Creative
professionals have deadlines, writer's block, and an assortment of other
pressures and realities to contend with. One example I am intimately
familiar with: My husband, who is an independent musician (both with his
band and solo), is always busy booking gigs, maintaining his website,
developing new material, fixing equipment, traveling to gigs, setting
up, performing, breaking down, doing follow-up work after residencies,
and trying to find time to practice and develop more fully as an artist.
It's irksome when people think he only "works" when he is playing a gig
or that the fee he gets for a gig is merely compensation for the time
he actually performs and doesn't take into account the countless hours
of unpaid work and bills that lead up to it. Like so many other artists
we know, he does not receive health insurance (except through me),
retirement, or paid vacation and sick days. His work day and work week
never really end except for when he is sleeping. Marketing alone is an
endless task. Seeing this up close and personal is a large reason why,
so far, I choose to continue teaching rather than doing creative work
full-time. I love the creativity, but the flip-side of the coin is the
self-marketing piece, the uncertainty, and the constant pressure to
produce, book gigs, etc.
Recently, I read an article
about how modern concert technology on a larger scale leaves many
musicians feeling that their creativity and connection with their
audience is stifled because the visuals on stage need to be synchronized
with the music, and everything is pre-programmed. Similarly, many
teachers complain that the rigor of the new Common Core standards
compromises freedom, creativity, and their ability to connect with their
Structure seems to be infringing on
creativity and authenticity in many professions and industries. And what
I'm realizing is that true artistry in any field involves the ability
to express creativity and freedom through structure. The work is
to balance technique and expression, discipline and creativity,
structure and freedom - to integrate those polarities and elevate our
work into art. It can be extremely challenging. A few examples come to
mind: haiku and other poetic forms, musical composition, calligraphy,
and - once again - teaching standards. It's all pretty much the same.
There is a structure within which you create, and the better acquainted
you are with that structure, the more freedom you ultimately have to
create. That in a nutshell is probably a large reason why the last
school year was so difficult and unfulfilling for me - why I felt last
year's students didn't get the best I had to offer. They got the best I
could give given the circumstances, but it was nowhere near the
potential of what it could have been. The structures (plural)
were all new. We didn't yet understand them. For our work to become art,
there must be freedom for interpretation and personal expression, and
that comes from a deep understanding of the rules and parameters.
with regard to exercise, I find that I am more disciplined when I have a
schedule to adhere to. When my days are less structured, I tend to
procrastinate, at best.
It's all about balance and integration. Yin-yang.
summer, I went really deep into the spiritual and mental dimensions of
my being but largely neglected the physical. In order for my spiritual
energy to be expressed more fully and effectively, it is important to
attend to myself on a physical level as well - beginning with a good
night's sleep! Engaging the magic needs to be balanced with caring for
my body and home, as shown in the graphic below that I created to help keep me on track.
I head into the new school year, I've already experienced some moments
of anxiety over the rigid, bureaucratic structure within which I (and
all other public school educators) must do my job.
However, the anxiety comes when I lose sight of my real reason for being
in the classroom. When you strip away all the extra stuff, teaching is,
at its core, about the relationship between a teacher and a student. I
intend to really focus on that connection this year. If I find myself
feeling disheartened or anxious, I will need to return to the
here-and-now and attune to my connection with my students and with
And the only way to do that:
all about presence. There is a great blue heron that seems to show up
on the river when I am in need of "heron medicine." To me, the heron
represents the presence and inner knowing that arises from stillness. It
feels important to keep "heron energy" activated this year, which is
why I have a picture of my friend, the heron, on the cover of my
with the best of intentions, I once again turn my attention to my job
and believe (as a few friends have urged me to consider) that the
children in my care this year are with me for a cosmic reason. And
throughout this year - whatever it may bring - my goals are true
presence, remembering why I chose to teach in the first place, and
keeping alive those vibrant, fun, exciting parts of myself that I
discovered or became reacquainted with this summer.
sum it up: I intend to live an extraordinary, artful life and to allow
my true work to be channeled as fully as possible through what I do for a
Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or
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