Art is amazing, isn’t it? I wanted to show how things become full circle if you let them. After being honored in being part of the Clarice Smith American Art Education Initiative, I brought back Art into my curriculum of 10 Grade English, and the student were all of a sudden excited. Language became visual for them, and this was exciting foe me too!
Before this, having been, a member of The Endless Mountains Writing Project at Mansfield, then going to Kent State University and being part of the ASNE Reynold’s Institute Fellowship on Journalism, then being able to be a part of the Holocaust Educators’ Workshop, Kristol Center for Jewish Life, University of Delaware, so, what does it all mean? Taking these opportunities, and then implementing them sometimes is the hardest thing to do, for anyone. The demands of Standards, State testing, and more like to limit the opportunities of expanding the workshops and experiences you acquire past the immediate experience.
In May of 2011 I felt I had enough – and wanted to do more with these above experiences I had been lucky enough to be a part of. It was not merely attending, I needed to actually do something with these experiences! After a series of letdowns and coming to a dead end with trying to rise above discipline, state testing, and further restrictions, I decided, I needed to make a major change for myself, and to implement these experiences. I applied to ISS (International School Services) and took a position with ASF (American School Foundation) in Mexico City. This was not thought through, this WAS an unplanned reaction to the fact that I felt I was not using my talents to their full potential. I simply wanted to do more for students that meet their expectations on a test. Up to this point I had been able to do this, but in a very stressful environment trying to juggle standards, state testing, and relying on administration to back my discipline issues and when any one of these factors seem to be unbalanced, as an educator, you spend most of you time filling in that space to remedy situations. What would happen if 60% of that time could be devoted to meeting the needs of students? I wanted to find out. I wanted to go back and pursue my degree in Library Science to disprove the stereotypes of what Media Specialists do, expected to do, and are limited to do. This time, I wanted to incorporate art.
Now, As I look back, I see after starting my blog (please check it out at https://harrybrake.wordpress.com) that these experiences, wrapped into one, provide a powerful punch to curriculum and challenges to students. The blog I created documents my start here, and shows how the amazing achievements of students can be a reciprocal event for educators. I look back and see all my achievements tied to some dynamic students, that just wanted some creativity, challenge, and excitement in their learning. As I wander from Museum to museum in Mexico City, I am in we of the beauty and wonder of the sites I visit. I am pulled back to the moments at the Clarice Smith Opportunity that brought Art alive in all realms of critical and social literacy. I recall how the Holocaust and ASNE Initiative allowed me to put a voice to these opportunities. I praise the Writing Institute for giving me the ability to write grants to empower students. It seems being the advisor of the Literary Magazine in Mexico City, and serving as the Assistant Librarian, has allowed to to take these previous experiences, and filter them out to the very educators that desire assistance to reach their goals of empowering students.
The power to rise above restrictions is there, sometimes is involves some radical decision, but I am most afraid of looking back on my life, and having regretted not standing up for my students, for the opportunities to grow better for future students, and the chances to lead students to do the same. Mexico City is just the tip of thew iceberg, and the list of accomplishments could be 20 pages long, and not mean a thing if it does not take your students, and yourself, anywhere but within the confines of your mind. it is so vital in this age of technology, impersonal experiences and interactions, to step back, and recreate what education is all about – a very personal experience, that will remain with you forever. You can decide if you want that experience to be meaningful or not. I have been lucky enough to be involved in the mentioned initiatives that have continued to let me plan, create, and give these gifts back to future generations to do the same. I still think Art is amazing, but now for a hundred more reasons!