I could hardly sleep the night before our first workshop session. I was excited to meet my workshop mates and instructors, Shelley Berc and Alejandro Fogel. I’d been looking forward to the workshop for so long that it seemed unreal that I was finally there. I felt like a kid on the first day of school. I wanted my teachers and peers to like me, and I wanted to make a good impression without looking like I was trying too hard. Some old, dorky habits never die.
I met some of my amazing workshop mates in the hotel lobby. I was relived to see they were as nervous and excited as I was. Our workshop included participants from 12 countries including the US, Australia, New Zealand, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Norway, Brazil, the Netherlands, the UK, Slovenia, Singapore, and Canada. The participants represented a variety of professions like educators, doctors, writers, a choreographer, and even an inventor. We began our first session like we would begin every session- with a relaxation and visualization exercise. This was perfect because I was still very nervous, and I needed to relax.
Shelley talked to us about the importance of having “beginner’s mind”. Beginner’s mind is a concept of openness and having an attitude that is not burdened with preconceived notions. A beginner’s mind is very child-like. You purposefully enter at situation eagerly and without any opinions or expectations. You free yourself to more exploration and discovery.
It was the first 30 minutes of our first session, and Shelley had described perfectly what I’d lost. I’ve always been considered quirky as a teacher, willing to try different things. I’ve worn that label with honor. I’ve always been one of the most open and transparent yet pretty strict teachers. I believe in giving my students freedom and a voice. I also believe in discipline and structure. My classroom is rarely quiet but always under control. I’m still the same teacher I’ve always been, but over the past couple of years I’ve changed a little.
I used to have class outside all the time. My students would come up with new questions after a science experiment, and I would make up a new lab so they could explore the answer. It wasn’t always a part of the curriculum necessarily, but I wanted to encourage my students’ innate curiosity. Plus, it was fun and engaging. They really owned that knowledge because they were the ones who inspired the lesson. Unfortunately, I was doing less of that in my classroom. I’m not sure when it happened, but I started to focus on “getting my students ready!!”. I did not keep my eye on the real prize. I was losing my mojo, and it was all my fault.
I knew right then and there that this workshop was where I need to be.
Alejandro introduced us to automatic drawing. Automatic drawing is a technique when you allow your hand to randomly move all over paper. From the random scribbles, you will find your drawing. He also talked about Barcelona native Joan Miró. Miró said that it was easier to create if there was something already on the canvas. So, he’d draw a star like object on his work space so it would no longer be blank. Sometimes Miró would paint over it, but X-rays of his worked demonstrated that they were always there. Alejandro said that when we create that we are so worried about finishing that we have trouble starting.
It was the beginning of a great week.