Returning to our Roots
It takes a village to raise a child, and that village will be called upon in this time of upheaval, uncertainty and change. As teachers, we are summoned to seek out the best in our students so they may be at their optimum in body, mind, and spirit. These last few months have been challenging for students to access their higher selves, and as such, it is a teacher’s purpose to set them up for success so they may feel confident, competent and connected.
As we navigate this new normal, let us remember where to find common ground so we may partake of and contribute to a unified body and voice. May we lift each other up so we recognize and delight in all that we are, rather than drag ourselves into what we can’t do in untenable circumstances. Although we may have little control over our surroundings, we are masters of our personal realities with limitless potential for unbridled outcomes. At once exhilarating and intimidating, artistic endeavour brings a rush of emotion not often given free reign.
The arts have consistently demonstrated their capacity to serve as a source of serenity and tranquility, of resilience and empowerment, of inspiration and affirmation. Whether in front of a mirror, a screen, a manuscript, or a canvas, the arts can offer solace and peace amidst the chaos of our world. Bombarded with sensory overload and stimulation, the arts provide a safe haven where we may find our voice, our shape and direction, whenever the distraction of doing takes away from the wholeness of being. Without movement, music and art, we would be hollow versions of ourselves, devoid of passion and imagination.
The very act of creating something from nothing allows us to explore the infinite possibility of what could be, rather than berating ourselves for what should be, or agonizing over what would be. The creative process invites us to take risks without fear of failure because there are infinite ways of expressing our inner landscape, as long as we remain loyal to our personal truth. The more often we explore and expand upon this vision, the clearer it becomes, and this strength of self-knowledge helps to define our unique character and identity.
They say students do not necessarily remember what you teach them, but they most certainly remember how you make them feel. The arts have the ability to access our mercurial and layered emotions that anchor us to our experiences and memories because they transcend the usual demographics that tend to divide and separate us: language, history, class, status. When we move in unison, sing in harmony, draw or paint or build a common object, or reenact scenes together, the shared goal of creation bonds us together and scaffolds emotional safety and expression in a collaborative manner. In this way, students experience first-hand the power of imagination.
It is this imagination that fuels our ability to transform our feelings so they may direct our actions safely and respectfully. When we consider “what if”, we open ourselves to curiosity and shield ourselves from judgment and criticism. Students may rehearse possible outcomes to conflict in the safety of pretense, or experiment with discomfort and form without rules and restrictions on structure and format. Learning an artistic skill is inherently rewarding because we see and feel the result of rehearsal, the product of practice. We can focus on process and reap the benefits of performance if we choose.
Artistic creativity and expression is what distinguishes our unique humanity among living things. It gives pause so we may take time and space to revel in our presence, that we may find beauty in stillness and quietude, and give ourselves permission to feel the depth and breadth of our emotions so they may lead us toward greater understanding and compassion for our position and perspective. May we learn to dwell in darkness, so we may rise once more and find our place in the light.
Guest Writer: Erika MacNeil, is a dancer by training and a teacher by trade. Mother of two teens and owner of two mutts, Erika is also the librarian at Rogers PS in Newmarket, where she lives with her husband and family. She writes primarily flash fiction and poetry and has been published in a variety of media. She offers editing and content services for students, bloggers, and writers, and serves at Open Mic and Student Coordinator for the Writers Community of York Region. She has been a judge and critic for writing and public speaking contests and enjoys singing and painting when she is not in the studio or buried in a book.