As school starts, let's talk about a plan for our spontaneous anger. In case you are sure this won't come up...COME ON. You are going to be outraged this year, at least once. I will. (Ok, I already have been, but I'm a high achiever.) One of my kids will come home with a story about a teacher, administrator or policy that will appear so outrageously wrong that a small volcano will erupt in my chest and make the top of my head tingle. You might be serving in one or more roles when it happens--as a teacher, principal, parent, student, staff or board member--and it might be directed at someone else from this list. Or your dormant volcano may start rumbling over a policy or procedure that seemed to be created out of willful ignorance, or worse, disregard for kids. There may even be the distinct scent of your own self-righteousness in the smokey air. Been there, done that.
STOP HERE RIGHT NOW AND GET EXCITED. You have a plan for this. It's taped on the side of your fridge. You can't go wrong if you follow it. And if, also like me, this plan prevents you from making an a-double-s of yourself, burning bridges, embarrassing your children, or losing a golden opportunity to improve something for kids or adults in your school, why not give it a whirl when lava is threatening your peaceful world? Here it is in ten steps. It would be five, but we are really mad right now:
It's been a summer of astounding growth for both my garden and my kids. The squash and tomatoes, and our son and daughter, have grown beyond my expectations. I feel more pride in their transformations than a humble person ought to. For our girl, it is the overwhelming desire to make visual art that calls to her until it is released. For our boy, it is a stream of music that overflows out of him and through his instruments.
Here's how the squash & tomatoes did it: it was, of course, programmed into the seed that the plant should flower and come to fruition. They also had the good fortune to be planted in decent soil under the California sun and (with equally big luck) near a hose in the middle of a drought.
Here's how the kids did it: they responded to their constant, nagging itch to make things out of thin air for no understandable reason. And then they followed through, repeatedly producing art and music in a variety of forms. As for soil, sun and water, our kids had the family, teachers and organizations that provided time, safe space, high quality instruction and the right tools to make what was demanding to be made. Even in the middle of an arts programming drought.
As school opens again, whether we have kids in them or not, let's create something new because we want more of what we love. Let's plant and nurture art programs as professionals and business owners and as universally creative humans. No matter who we are voting for in November and despite whatever is most pressing. As the kids in our towns start fresh again, let's decide how we will support our art, music, writing, coding, gardening, theater, design and all creative programs in our schools--and even initiate programs where they don't yet exist. Let's donate money if we can, and we probably can. But that's not where our power ends. We have equally great ways to contribute if we start with the things we love to do well.
A phone call to a teacher or principal who is receptive to the community or has a pet project might be just the way to start. Gardeners may help plant a garden or build raised beds. Musicians can greatly free up a music teacher's time for more instruction by assisting with instrument repair. Technical writers are needed to seek out grants and write them on behalf of their schools and impassioned speakers may address the school board on behalf of underfunded programming. Businesses and professionals can offer short-term internships, display student work, and offer to teach students how to start their own businesses, online stores or how to code. Yoga teachers can do a weekly lunch class with a willing p.e. teacher present. We can create more of what we love by serving students with our own gifts and knowledge.
In doing something despite feeling constrained by time or money, we can use what we love to nurture creative programs that will transform and grow our local students in areas that excite us as well. If we invest in our schools with what we have to give, we'll harvest the gifts of thriving, resilient adults we'll want to have around. Like our own creations, their art will feed the rest of us a hundredfold.