It’s been almost a year since I’ve written here.
Been dealing with lots of health stuff, and so much has happened here and around the country and world. There’s been way too much collective grief, hurt, disappointment, anger, and harm done to children and innocents everywhere. Aleppo, Syria alone makes me question humanity, makes me wonder (again and again) if mercy is only for some and not all. It seems so.
All the pain in the world, in all the corners where lives were cut short, or were ruined, families torn apart, or obliterated. Like no one learns from history and our species
seems hell bent on self and planet destruction.
The many stars, artists, thinkers, humans who left us.
In the midst of this, and everyone’s individual private or public life battles, people go on and live. Remarkably, people continue working, laughing, making art, pushing forward. We all do what we have to do to get by, and there’s no way through it but through it. Which sucks a lot of the time. And this year has been difficult for many, and these are extraordinary times. Lots of WTF?! Seriously?! And now what?!
I don’t know about you, but I could do with a minimum three-month long hibernation right about now.
My hopes and wishes for the New Year include love and peace, clean water, fresh air, good food, safety, freedom, justice, more kindness, an end to cruelty of all kinds, for science and facts to (eventually, and before its entirely too late) win the day, and for the wildlife creatures and seas and skies to keep on and keep on while we each find our own ways to keep going, be with those we love, and resist and organize peacefully so we can work to get our democracy back for everyone.
As we near the end of the school year (only three days left next week), I got to thinking about my early days at school.
I started ballet lessons soon after seeing Swan Lake when I was four years old. I remember wearing my blue velvet dress and white tights and looking at the stage and thinking–I want to do that. My teacher, Paulette, taught me how to grasp the barre, how to hold my head up, how to tie my hair in a bun, my first plies. There was leaping across the wood floor.
My 2nd or 3rd grade teacher (I can’t remember her name) taught me how to write haikus. One day she said, “You don’t have to give a fake smile when your real smile is so beautiful.”
My gym teacher in 3rd grade made up knock knock jokes with my name, it was funny and silly (pre-politically correct days) and I learned to walk on the balance beam and do gymnastics. I was a good sprinter and did well running short distances really fast. One of my teachers (was it Miss Julie?) ran a Boston Marathon and we went to cheer her on. I was terrible at baseball, always afraid the ball would hit me. Once I hit a home run, but had to be told (yelled at, really), “RUN! Go, go, go!” I never liked ball sports. That’s been a constant. These days, I enjoy a short game of throwing a ball back and forth (preferably a large, light, beach ball type deal) with M. Somehow with him its fun.
In 4th grade I won my first art award, Best Design for The Great Paper Airplane Contest. It remains one of my prized possessions. I had painted my paper airplane with the blue stars and stripes of the Israeli flag, rainbow colors, peace signs, and flowers. It didn’t go far or fast, but that wasn’t the point.
Ever since I was very little, I was into the arts and the performing arts . I did well with language, reading, and writing. I adored painting, drawing, and just about any art project. I loved dancing and playing make-believe and had a very imagination filled childhood. I spent hours making up stories, making mud pies, talking to imaginary characters in my head, in the garden. I don’t remember being tested much. I don’t remember having to do excessive amount of homework. But maybe that’s the kind of stuff one forgets? I don’t know.
I watch M and he spends a long time making up his own stories. His most interesting pictures are those he makes himself in the spur of the moment— inspired by something, he will say, “I need paper and to paint.” And off he goes, choosing his markers, crayons, or sometimes coming into my room asking me for my paints. Sometimes we paint side by side. I never tell him what to do. I ask open-ended questions. I tell him all colors are beautiful, and he can choose whichever he wants and put them together anyway he likes. I tell him there are no mistakes in art. He usually has confidence when he draws, or paints. He does his thing. One teacher told me last week that “he’s an out of the box thinker.” I beamed with pride.
I’m lucky, I guess, to have had a progressive, well-rounded public school education in the suburbs of Boston in the 1970s. To have had parents who were artists (wacky, no doubt) who believed in coloring outside the lines. I have passed that on to M. And I hope what happens in our district doesn’t squash what he has. If I was a child who had to go through what is being suggested for my child, I’d be sad. And I am sad, that the district we live in now, that we moved to especially for the schools, is now infected with a sickness of sorts.
I wonder if or how teachers can teach freely, passionately, and happily when they’re afraid. I wonder what kind of effect that has on the atmosphere of a school. I wonder how much that will be noticed when M goes back in September. Or by some miracle will things stay the same? Is it possible? I dread what might happen but at the same time, can’t let M know all this. How do I make everything be OK? This is a child who wants to play. Paint. Make up stories. Be with friends. Investigate and explore. If they say he must be tested or assessed in first grade, do I allow it? Do I opt him out? Instead of sitting here simply able to enjoy his accomplishment of finishing Kindergarten, I’m now worried about what first grade will bring. I try to compartmentalize this so that I can be here now and be happy in what he’s done and where we are. His potential, abilities, and mind are always growing and changing, but some things of his essence probably will probably stay the same. I will do whatever I have to to make sure he gets the kind of learning he needs. I thought I had found IT. But IT has changed. The ground we stand on has shifted.
Goodnight, good morning.
Whew. The Revolution has begun! So much going on and I’m prepping for the next BOE meeting on Monday. Hoping to get a big turn out of parents and community.
And tomorrow is Father’s Day. For anyone celebrating, I hope you have a wonderful day. Here’s to all the dads who make our children’s world go around.
Mine taught me how to be a rabble-rouser; to speak up and protest when I see injustice. He taught me how to read starting when I was a toddler. He used antique printing blocks to teach me letters and words. We had an old printing press for woodcuts (made by my mother) and signs and did all kinds of hand printing work, too. He helped me publish my first “book.” He showed me how make art; how to capture a moment in photography; how to look for light or shadows and really see them. Among many other things, he’s been a Civil Rights , social, and environmental justice activist for decades, and to this very day.
Thank you, Dad.
I made this today:
And then I found this bit of wonderful from Lookatmyhappyrainbow.com:
My hands are better but still resting them. My brain is going in a 1000 directions. My floor is covered with piles of documents, notes, and emails. My walls are covered in notes, quotes, and Ms drawings. He’s in Kindergarten. Here’s a recent one:
I beg forgiveness if I’m slow to respond or to check out my fellow blogger’s sites. I appreciate your messages and support. When this is all over, I hope to visit the many bloggers who’ve been so kind here.
Good night and sweet dreams.
I missed posting last week because Max and I were both sick.
As the week neared an end, Max got better. Then he started climbing the walls. Literally. I was climbing the walls, too, but I don’t have any snapshots of the inside of my mind which I imagine might have resembled crumbs from a piece of burnt bagel or maybe it was a cinnamon pop tart.
All better now.
It was the last day of camp yesterday. When we got out of the car, we saw the camp counselor /art teacher. We had a brief parking lot conversation on the way in. How fast the summer has gone…How quickly camp flew by…How much fun it was…
She said, “You know, I love the things Max says, ‘I’m a real artist.’ Or, ‘There are no mistakes in art.’ Other kids get frustrated sometimes, but Max just told them, ‘There are no mistakes in art.'”
Wish I would take my own advice more often. Maybe I need to practice saying that to myself. Then practice believing it. Or perhaps take the often useful approach, fake it ’till you make it, and then act AS IF I believed it.
THERE ARE NO MISTAKES IN ART
I was happy to hear that Max has gotten that message and was helping his friends, too.
On the way inside, he showed me some new tricks he’s picked up.
I’m thrilled that he’s learned so much these past six weeks. He went from being uncertain and afraid of being in a new place to feeling comfortable and confident. He even asked me, “Why did camp end so fast?” Max is walking away with a bunch of new skills like swimming with his head under water, playing basketball, soccer, etc.
Suddenly he pointed up. “See that window up there, Mommy? That’s the art room. I know where all the rooms are now.”
Seems this was just the right camp for him. Gosh, all that angsting I had over it. And it was fine. More than fine. Hmm. I wonder if I’ll be able to remember this next time I need to choose something for him. Maybe less worrying and fretting next time? Nah. It’s part of the deal.
If we never take a chance on something new, we can’t really grow. I’ll thank Max for reminding me of that little nugget.
When I arrived at camp in the afternoon to get him, they’d just finished face painting. He ran to show me the hamster on his cheek.
Then, it was time for ice pops and goodbyes. I had one, too. Grape. I should really say purple! My favorite. Max had green. He said it was green apple flavored. For a few minutes, the counselors, the kids, and I happily slurped our ice pops. A rainbow of colors. All delicious. A good and sweet goodbye.
Hugs, thank you, and we’ll see you again some day.
Love & peace,
PS. I’ve been rereading a wonderful book I’d like to recommend. It’s an anthology presented by Eric Carle, benefitting the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art: ARTIST to artist, 23 Major illustrators Talk to Children about Their Art, Philomel Books
All words and images © Elana Halberstadt 2012 except where noted.