Joyce and I had met at one of the festivals I was participating in.
Joyce works at a local elementary school
and I must admit -
has become a bit of a hero to me.
She teaches fourth grade.
In Oregon -
like many other states,
funding for schools continues to dwindle and schools are forced to make budgetary choices.
Cuts of teachers; cuts of supplies; cuts of programs.
Now don't get me started on this topic.
It is one that is near and dear to my heart.
I have led letter-writing campaigns, attended board meetings and lodged more than one complaint based on the types of cuts that have been at my children's schools.
I'm going to make a few statements here - and they make some people angry -
but I'm going to do it anyway. . .
Why does it always seem that the first programs to get put on the chopping block are the music, theatre and arts programs.
Never the football team or basketball teams.
Because, for some reason, we seem to think of these arts classes as "fluff".
I have worked for private schools who offered none of these classes.
In fact, if the students wanted to participate in an arts related class- they were offered only after school and the parents had to pay a significant extra fee.
I understand the costs associated.
But - not every child fits in to the "sports" box.
I sure didn't.
By the time I was in high school - I have no problem admitting that my participation in the drama department was the primary reason I got out of bed and went to school every day.
And I know that I wasn't the only one -
For many of us, the drama department and the drama room was our refuge from the rest of the school.
In fact for many of my friends - the drama department was a refuge from their homes, where they were subjected to ridicule and abuse.
In the arts department, they were accepted.
And then, don't forget the life lessons that a student learns through participation in the arts.
Problem solving, thinking in a more dimensional manner, self-discipline, cause and effect . . .life skills.
I could on and on.
But I digress . . .
back to Joyce.
Joyce watched the art program get cut in her elementary school.
She believed that the students needed art -
so she took it upon herself to organize and implement an art program.
In addition to her regular teaching.
Like I said - Joyce is my hero!
I was asked by Joyce to come out to her school and do an assembly presentation on my art.
She wanted me to share why I do what I do -
where I get my inspiration from -
why I use words in my art -
to share how words have influenced me and to talk about the POWER of words.
WOW! I was so humbled to have been asked to that.
I mean - who am I?
I'm just a person who doodles - I'm no expert.
I accepted Joyce's invitation and went out to the school on a dreary Wednesday morning.
I used to teach private lesson and classes for private schools and home school groups.
I have never been able to teach in a school as a "teacher" because I don't have a College degree.
But I have been able to share some of my love of the creative arts through more "unconventional" approaches.
And I love to teach.
I love working with kids and helping them gain a love of the arts.
But more than that - I love seeing them develop and navigate through the rough world of adolescence by learning coping skills with their creative processes.
As I stood in front of the children at this assemble, it all came back to me.
I was asked to speak for 45 minutes.
I started to talk and got excited.
We talked about words and how they can affect us.
I talked about finding a passion for something you love.
I talked about dedication and perserverance.
It was so wonderful.
But the point of this post -
to commend Joyce - and all the other people out there who see the importance of the arts programs in their school. For those people who are working tirelessly, often by footing the expense out of their own pocket, to keep the arts alive.
I look forward to the day that we put the arts on the same pedestal as sports.
I am sure I am not alone when I say . . .
Thank You Joyce. The world needs more people like YOU.