Friday, July 18, 2008

Something out of left field....

My ex student collecting thoughts while visiting an impressive carved meeting house in the mid 70s. As a special challenge the thoughts gathered had to be expressed through art from drawings gathered on the day.

Last month it was a very pleasant surprise to receive an e-mail from a student I had had the pleasure of teaching over thirty years ago.

It was enlightening to read her recollections of her experiences of her time in 'our' class. I will let her express her thoughts without editing ( except to preserve her identity - I will need to ask her permission to do this).

In my reply to her I said that I had learnt as much from class members as they hopefully did from me. To put things into perspective it was my first year of teaching; all my previous experiences had been as a nature study specialist and science adviser. In this itinerant role I had had the experience of visiting a number of creative teachers and later worked with small group of very innovative teachers to develop an environmental approach to learning.

At the time we were all heavily influenced by the inspirational writings of Elwyn Richardson who in his still relevant book 'In The Early World' wrote, 'They are my teacher as I was theirs and the basis of our relationship was sincerity, without which,I am convinced there can be no creative education.'

Back to the e-mail:

'This will be a little out of left field but...hello from me...your student from days past...I hope you remember the ten year old because you are indelible in my ten year old brain as the person who showed me how to feel,see and say.

You had (and still continue to have) a profound effect on me and my development..I'm sure the reason I am an artist today is because of you...I have often thought of that class and of the things you showed and shared with mother recently found an incredible piece of evaluation you had written( for some reason about my character) It was so prescient and predictive, sensitive and apposite and it seems, and all agree, I'm the person exactly as I was at ten...hmmmm.

I just wanted to express my thanks for all you gave taught me about the trees and their Maori names...I remembered them all my life and tried to show my kids the same kind of magic..neither of them has had a passionate teacher like you and I can feel the lack in them...

I gave a small talk at my daughter's school a few years ago about the importance of feeding and opening a child's imagination and I mentioned the influence one teacher had had on me...

And whenever I want to create something I go back to the ten year me and find that centre...the open and questioning ten year old it was a great gift and you are unlikely fairy godmother...and I wish someone could wake up my ten year old girl who is full of talent but more worried about being popular...sigh.

All I could say back to my past student was thanks for the most wonderful feedback a teacher could have. All teachers live in hope that that what they do will have a positive effect in the future lives of their students and so it was wonderful for my ex student to feel it important enough to let me know and to attach examples of her paintings.

As an aside I would never have picked my ex student as future artist. I thought that a future destination might have been a writer , a dancer, or possibly a model but, from her her actions and writings, I knew she would be involved in a creative field.

My few years teaching in the 70s have remained with me as my most inspirational educational memories, and confirmed my beliefs (that I continue to hold to this day) about the importance of creative education. I keep in touch with a number of my local ex students but the e-mail was areal treat.

Certainly 'out of left field....'

So thanks again.


Anonymous said...

So wonderful for you to hear from your student after thirty years. Teachers all too often never know what effect they have had on their students; teaching is an act of faith. It must be a good feeling for you to know you made such a powerful impression.

Bruce said...

'It was simply the best', to receive the e-mail.