And so we move forward ... lessons learned ... walk away

Yuin Nation country, Malua Bay, NSW


I must say the ellipsis, the ... (dot dot dot) ... punctuation mark is one I tend to use quite a lot. People have different reasons for using it but I use it for two. One, it acts like a thought pause similar to when you're speaking and you look up to some unknown point, waiting for inspiration. I also use the ellipsis as a way to omit an unspoken word or phrase. It comes from the Ancient Greek: ἔλλειψιςélleipsis meaning 'leave out'.

I am enjoying our time away at the coast. Malua Bay is a beautiful area and to walk the beaches and drink good coffee, have time to relax a little and heal. I say "heal" in the way of healing both my physical condition which at the moment is the poly myalgia rheumatica mentioned in a precious entry as well as the mental difficulties and disappointments I have been experiencing lately. Many of which I have carried for a long time.

The past eighteen months has been an interesting one. As you already know, I have chosen to retire from teaching for a couple of reasons. Every classroom I have ever entered, I have taken my position as guide/teacher very seriously. I remember my first class at the Crafts Council of the ACT I was so nervous that I was almost shaking and crying. I managed to settle that type of reaction as time went by and my experience grew. But my god ... if I wasn't not prepared for my classes then I was not happy. It is a pressure willingly put upon my own shoulders. And that's okay as the prepping is part of the process. I revel in that, but it was always ultra-pressure time ... for me.

Of course, over time I managed to swap things in and out of my lesson plans according to how the actual class in front of me at any given time, was going. Mostly adult participants, pay a lot of money to be there with me as their guide. Thus, I have always felt a huge responsibility for their learning. Heck, on the very odd occasion I have gone into class as a late-notice tutor and managed to "wing-it". The upside of that is that I have always been delighted to see my students do well, feel good about their progress and manage to pick up a bit of work of their own. It has been a very satisfying giving sharing.

Now as the globe returns to our new normal (as the phrase goes) another reason for giving up teaching is that I am still asked to teach via online platforms. To be honest, I am totally platformed out. I have run classes, privately via the Zoom network, locally, nationally & internationally. Many have been wonderful, and I have “always” appreciated invitations. Rarely these days though, are groups prepared to invite me to teach in-person. 

Being an in-person guide allows for a two-way experience in sharing. Not just information, but the fine demonstrations and details required between the tutor and student that allows for the tutor to watch and see the student work, make suggestions, and help in every way when required. Taking their pen, their brush, looking closely and trialling their ink and wet media … and so on.

Sitting in my studio, with cameras switching between my face and my hands allows me to see only that … my face and my hands. It is only when I switch over either at the beginning of the session or at the end of the session that I can see the whole classroom or little squares with little faces. You get my drift!?

The participants on the other hand have a birds-eye view of everything! Don’t get me wrong here … I know that is perfect for them! I as their tutor is the one who is missing out and it is that aspect that truly saddens me.

And there is one other just more than slightly annoying aspect to teaching via an online platform as I am the only person responsible for the smooth running of the class and that is movement. I like to move. I demonstrate sometime with my body. I express some writing movement with an elegant move of my arm or a swash with my wrist. I sit sometimes for two hours without movement. Take a break for maybe fifteen minutes then sit again for two hours or sometimes three. This type of restriction does not lead to either good long-term posture, and dare I say it, weight gain!

My life has been so fortunate in many ways and one of them has been invitations to teach widely. Privileged really. I have a sound formal background in calligraphy and lettering and have always relied on my training and knowledge gained over many years to advance the exciting lettering fields. I have always enjoyed being a student as well. My friends and colleagues will continue to find me popping up in their classes in-person and online as I firmly believe in life-long learning. 

Last year a friend mentioned to me that another person was teaching one of my courses and that I should check it out. That same "someone" was also teaching one of their courses. Lo and behold! My friend was right. The entire course, including notes, descriptions and samples stolen and taught by one of my long-time students without a mention of my name nor a request for "may I" use your handouts, notes etc. Shocked to the core. I subsequently discovered that two other students (and one very close friend) were doing similar.

Another huge disappointment was discovering the blatant sharing of my class handouts, documents, and recordings. 

Sharing without permission a tutor's notes, recording and handouts, is stealing. This shows selfishness and a total lack of respect to me as the tutor. It didn't happen just once, it happened more than a hundred times in various courses, that I know of. How unfair that lack of respect is for fellow students who have paid a good deal of money to undertake a course only to have it shared with others who have not paid a cent. Again, it is stealing.

I ran very successful online classes right throughout the covid-19 period and I had done so for one of the big international conferences during world lock-downs. I was more than happy to contribute in that way then because of the global situation. So, I know what it is like to zoom at big conferences and small group events. Many, in the middle of my night … and that’s okay. But … for now … that time has come to a huge pause. I am exhausted. My mental health has taken a big hit and the disappointment in my heart has left me feeling wretched. It is time to heal.  

The 2023 year continued with many teaching successes particularly in Europe and Australia. I arrived home from Europe and threw myself into the solo exhibition work for the Art Society of Tasmania which was by all accounts welcome, poignant, thought provoking and successful. 

Then I fell ill. Is it any wonder ...

With the help of my wonderful rheumatologist Dr Ling San Wong, who I met last Thursday and with whom I built an immediate rapport, I will steadily improve. Plus with the love and support of my family, the kiddies, David and close friends who really do know me, the road will be an easier one. And for them I am truly grateful. The teacher in me has been taught a huge lesson. Ancora imparo ... yet I am learning!


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