Thursday, February 21, 2013

More than the Sum of My E-Mails

Yesterday I had several moments whilst I was at work related duties that reminded me that I am more than the sum of my e-mails. 

In the afternoon, a young woman came to the office and said she was looking for me.  She said she was working on her portfolio, and she really wanted someone else to look it over.

At first I thought she was looking for a tutor, and I started to give her that information.  She said, "Actually, I wanted you."

She then went on to say that she was looking through all of her work when deciding what to include in her portfolio, and she'd come across the papers she'd written for my class.  She realized how constructive my comments were and how I'd helped her become a better writer, and thus, she was really interested in what I had to say about her portfolio.

Of course I said I would be honored to help. 

Later, I told my friend (who is also a work colleague) about the encounter.  She smiled and said, "You've been paid today."

Yes.  Thank you, universe.  I so rarely hear back about the long-term outcome of anything I do on the job that it's hard to know whether or not anything I do really matters. 

I realize that the larger existential question remains unanswered.  I imagine someone saying, "Sure, you helped one student improve, but in the long range, who cares?  The seas continue to rise, children continue to go to bed hungry, the world is a long way from your vision of what should be."

But yesterday, I could ignore that voice and focus on the single student, the Black History month event that we've managed to pull together, and the field trip to a local gallery.

A few days ago, I thought we couldn't pull together our Black History month lecture.  I thought we didn't have enough time.  But happily, our lecturer could do the event one week later, and so, on Tuesday, she'll offer a presentation on Faith Ringgold.  There's even a bit of money in the budget to offer coffee and cookies.

Then a week later, for Women's History Month, our colleague will offer her presentation on women in the arts.  We'll have sandwiches for that event.

The wondrous event-related development that happened yesterday is that our librarian put together a beautiful flier and poster for our Black History Month lecture.  My attempt looks so juvenile compared to hers.  I really need to learn how to work Photoshop.

After various consultations, I was off to a do a field trip observation at Girl's Club Gallery in Ft. Lauderdale.  I love this little gallery.  I love that students get a special presentation.  For many of them, it's the first time they've been in a gallery and the first time that some of them realize that private collectors still exist and are collecting work, right here in our midst.

And of course, I love seeing the art made by contemporary women (95% of the collection) and men.  I fell in love with the 3 pieces by Mel Kadel.  She did such interesting things on the back of pages taken from a book.  I have several hymn books that I swiped from the trash pile for art projects.  I like the pages' sort of translucent quality, but I have trouble getting the effect that I want.  Her work inspired me to try again.

I think I'll do some collaging this week-end.  But the show, which focuses on drawing, did make me want to pick up my sketchbook again.  Maybe I'll do that soon.

I watched the students wandering through the gallery and listened to their discoveries, some of which helped me see the art in different ways too.  For example, in one work by Jiae Hwang, I hadn't realized that the swirls of a girl's hair looked like planets and space ships until I heard a student point it out.  Wonderful!

The gallery notes can be found here.  My computer loads the PDF so that the text and images appear in a seafoam color.  Obviously, the works were not all seafoam colored.  But it gives you an idea--and if you're in the tri-county area, hopefully it will inspire you to pay a visit to the gallery.

I got home and wrote a gratitude haiku, so I'd be sure to remember the lessons of my work day:

I am so much more
than the sum of my e-mails
whole worlds hidden plain


Kathleen said...

Lovely account. I'm glad the student found YOU.

inab said...

WOW _ you are the teacher extraodinaire right in your own space - maybe that's where you were meant to least for yesterday