Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?- Frida Kahlo
We Never Know the Impact of Simple Acts
Awakening Joy For Kids takes moments and builds a framework of well-being and love.
Today I received a note from a student I had taught 13 years ago.
I’ve been meaning to send this to you forever, but it kept slipping my mind. Last year, I got Frida Kahlo tattooed on my leg. She’s continued to be a massive source of inspiration and strength to me. My first introduction to her was through you in elementary art in grade four. I remember you introducing our class to her. Frida’s story, her art, and her life left me feeling puzzled, as I found her ugly and her art unattractive. As time passed and you explained more about her and her work, I gained a new perspective. It was my first experience where art allowed me to think and digest…. and dissect what it is that we consider beauty. Her work allowed me to look deeper into what “normal” beauty standards are. This was the first time I saw that art could reflect something other than happiness. Over the following years, her art seemed to constantly present itself in the moments I needed it. I decided to make that feeling permanent and put a little bit of her on my body. Anyway, I just wanted to share this snippet of my heart and brain and thank you dearly for introducing me to one of the greats.
I have been lucky enough to teach in a small town for most of my career. I regularly see past students in and around my community. They often remind me of a lesson I taught that had a huge impact on their lives and well-being. Who knew? I say this because as teachers we plant seeds. We never know when or if they will grow. The student who seems to take it all in and blossom in the moment might not be the one who receives the most from the teachings. Your toughest days as a teacher might be the richest fodder for student learning.
I wrote Awakening Joy For Kids with James, as I wanted to share the lessons that impacted my students the most. These were the lessons where I shared my heart and the children did too. We didn’t just explore the happy times but also looked at how we could attend to heartbreak. James and I wrote an article for the Greater Good Science Center that has several tips on getting through difficult times. I feel so grateful that at the end of 25 years I get notes like this one from Grace. She is now becoming a teacher herself. Who knows where these Frida or other class lessons go? I learned about Frida when I was a new teacher looking for female artists to balance the huge collection of “Masters” in the art resource center. Frida became my absolutely favorite artist. I taught about her every year in some small way. She is an example of resilience, determination, and a woman fully in touch with herself. The kids always loved when I shared that she had her bed put onto a truck and taken into the gallery of her show opening. The doctor had told her she was too sick to get out of bed.
Four years ago, I was lucky enough to travel to Mexico and go to her home where she lived with Diego. I thought I would absolutely die with excitement. I touched her table, sat at her chair, and stared into the mirror above her bed. When I returned to teach the following September, the children were in awe of her story once again.
So please share your passion; share about the ones who have come before you with such aliveness and let the children know about the paths these individuals have walked. We never know how a story about an aunty or uncle or a lesson in a grade four classroom on a rainy winter day will affect those who hear it for years to come.
If you didn’t get to see this recording of James speaking on setting intention with children, please click here. I had the privilege of spending a few days at his home in California in early September.