On yesterday a dear friend of mine had the honor of meeting the parent of two of my former students. I must note here that I am no longer in the standard classroom. My spirit pushed me out of it like the last bit of toothpaste from the tube. She called me afterward to share the experience.
Of course my first question was how did either of them make the connection to me. My friend had started the conversation as she was meeting her appointment at the office. The lady had mentioned her daughters and art. My friend mention me as an artist and former classroom art educator. At that point I became the uncommon denominator. She said my students’ mother’s eyes lit up. ” He was the best she said. Even my children who were not in his classes loved him.” She went on to talk about the influence on her daughters and proceeded to ask for my number and send some pics of one of her daughter’s (now young woman) works of art. She had actually chosen that as a profession.
“You were a safe haven for her daughters.” Those words stuck to the sides of my brain. It made me think about how desperately we are in need of safe haven in our world. Perhaps my mission as an educator, and artist who taught, had been on point. I wanted my students to know that in the space I prepared for them, they had arrived. The had come to a space where I would unsettled them traditionally and inspire them creatively. A place where they were safe to be who they were beyond judgement or fear of being. They were safe to make the necessary “failures” that led to their successes. I listened as much to what they did not say as I did to the words they spoke with their mouths.
In my studio classroom, I referred to them as world changers in effect. The world I referred to specifically was their own, first. Next, was our world within that creative classroom lab. The one that I tried to make as much as possible into a microcosm of the real one in terms of creative challenges. I often told them that my number one job was to prepare them. If they learned to like or love me along the way, I was okay with that. If they did not, I’d be okay with that too. “But my number one job is to prepare you.”
In all of what I attempted, it appears I did create a type of safe space. I’ve heard that more than once or twice. I created, in artistic terms, a mock up of the world I wanted to live in. At times when I am tempted to doubt based on news headlines of murdered children and families destroyed, I am always led back to the stories. The true stories in my life that serve as reminders of our possibility to create, to construct a space where life thrives in a conducive environment beyond mere existence. A space beyond this seeming chaotic one where we tap into an inner space that no one can truly disturb. A space that makes room for safe haven.