“You know what’s inside of a chrysalis? Like when a caterpillar is turning into a butterfly? It’s just goo. It’s just like butterfly soup in there. Maybe that’s like you right now. You’re butterfly goo, and before you know it you will emerge and surprise everyone with some new amazing thing, then flutter off and make it look like it was no big deal.” – from a friend on IG

People ask me all the time why I move around so much. It always sort of takes me by surprise and I think to myself, I don’t ask other people about their whereabouts, so why do people always ask me about mine? If they don’t ask me directly about moving around, they will make small comments, like: your pets must be used to this by now or always on the go!

I’ve been thinking a lot about moving lately, as I get prepared to transition from Phnom Penh to Beijing. It’s an expensive move. Not as expensive as moving my pets and things from China to the United States, but still expensive considering the flight is only about 5 hours.

I don’t like moving. I don’t like saying goodbye to my students and classrooms. And, I don’t like upending my pets so much. It’s not healthy or financially sound. But, I got into full time teaching nearly 12 years ago with one goal: to keep the integrity of art alive in elementary and secondary educational facilities. 

Before I started teaching in schools full time, I was teaching in schools and museums as a visiting artist. I made connections to educational programmers and museum education departments and just sort of inserted myself. I also started teaching out of my house. I taught art camps and homeschoolers, adults and after school students. And through all of this, I would ask my students about the art education they were receiving in their schools and, for the adults, what they remembered about their art education.

My students would tell me they didn’t have art in schools or the teacher just handed out worksheets or that they never got to build anything and only drew things on computer paper. It wasn’t fun, they would say. My teacher tells me I’m not good at art was another popular response.

This was offensive to me.

I was furious that this was happening in schools and classrooms. It’s bad enough that very few people appreciate teachers. But even less appreciate art education and this was the kind of art education that was happening? No! And I have been determined to change this ever since.

Nearly every year of my full-time teaching career, my classes and what I do with my students has been used to market for whatever school I am working at. And nearly every year, I have to beg and plead and prove why I need this, that, or the other supply in my classroom. Why? If the school is going to use what I do in my classroom as marketing material and they are getting students based on this, then the school should be handing me supplies at every chance possible so that I can keep doing what I do with my students for the school’s benefit. 

One of my friends told me that I potentially make what I do look too easy. And I told her that the schools I have worked at are always shocked when the person comes in after me and can’t do what I did. So my thought is, stop taking me for granted! I do not have two masters degrees in art because it’s easy. I have two masters degrees in art because I am a select few at the top-however-many-percentage of my field and I take what I do very seriously. This is not a boast, it’s a fact.

No school has ever asked me to leave. Ever. I choose to leave schools based on their treatment and behavior towards the arts and by association, me. I can not be the best I can be for my students, if the school I am at is not treating my position with respect. As was always my goal from the very beginning, my commitment is to the integrity and value of art. Always and forever.

I know that this is really only the tip of the iceberg. That morale in teaching is incredibly low, that our model of education globally needs to change, that there are so many other things at play within this arena of conversation. But I hope that maybe people will take a pause before asking a pointed question about my choice to leave this position or that. In my current case, there are about 20 other items that went into making this decision, including my dog being very sick in Phnom Penh because of the tropical climate and his skin type. Please feel free to reach out privately if you’d like to know more.

I can’t wait to be in Beijing and set down roots. I will keep you posted! HAPPY SUMMER!