story through image.

October 13, 2011

In order for all of my classmates to come to know one another better, my professor requested that we each make a collage answering the questions “Who am I? Who do I want to be?” Because storytelling is how we make sense of life, and how we come to know each other, we each took a turn one Friday, sharing our images. We took the five hours of class time to listen, to piece together, to laugh. Because there is such a great diversity among the 32 of us, the stories had great depth, hurt, beauty, and humor. I came to know of people’s odd hobbies, travels, family traditions, and spiritual journeys. Everyone’s collage looked so different – some were hand-drawn, some just words, some on canvas, some on poster-board, some were digital, literal, abstract – all reflecting the intricacy of the human condition.

A friend and I gathered wine, cheese, music, and lots of magazines, paint, and glue – spreading out on the floor as the pacific rain came pouring down. We shared our own stories, quotes, and paths, as we pieced together our collages. Mine is pictured above, and I would like to share.

On the background of the piece is a map of San Diego. It is not only where I have physically come to, but the place where so much of my life has led me to – this place, with these experiences is both a place of arrival, and a place of departure.  There are a few literal representations of important aspects of my life – art, biking, baking, working with children.

I chose the ampersand to signify my journey to understand that life is much more about the “both/and” than the “either/or.” (I recall Waterdeep’s song And.) There is much more grey in life than black/white – most specifically when it comes to people. There is complexity and complication which create layers to every story. Giving people of the benefit of the doubt is a great gift. Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle. (Attributed to Philo of Alexandria.)

The human heart in the center reminds me of my own mortality. I am mind, body, and spirit – and the continued beating heart, pumping blood, breathing, thinking, feeling is a gift.

The hand holding the seeds says Food as Sacrament. A passion I have been given, and a talent I am cultivating, is the art of food. It is a way to be sustained, to love one another, share goodness, and connect with the earth. It is a daily, tangible experience of gratitude and abundance. I hope to serve thousands more beautiful meals.

The car load full of people speaks quietly to my hope for travel and a family of my own.

The plant life is taken from various California botanical sources. Nature is wise. Its growth is dependent on many sources, and it takes care to regenerate with the seasons.

The Annie Dillard quote says:

I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wondering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them.

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Drawing:: Olivia Jeffries Sublime

 
Three weeks ago I began my training as a Montessori teacher at the Montessori Institute of San Diego. I could not have anticipated the change that would begin to occur in my mind, body, and spirit. I have been engaged in an intense routine of lectures, presentations, reading, writing and practice. I am grateful for my wise professors, and for my fellow classmates, along for the journey. 

A sure cornerstone of the Montessori method is the well prepared adult. The preparation not only includes a deep knowledge of the child’s development, but also a paradigm shift of the role of the adult, requiring humility and an open heart. It involves both a practical preparation as well as a spiritual preparation.

Montessori writes, “The real preparation for education is a study of one’s self. The training of the teacher who is to help life is something far more than the learning of ideas. It includes the training of character, it is a preparation of the spirit.” (The Absorbent Mind)

I am being challenged to identify my own failings and misgivings. Prejudices and judgements have no room in the classroom. In order to view each child with dignity, I must leave negativity at the door, not projecting any of my own expectations. When I enter the environment with open eyes, eager to observe what is true, I can evolve with the needs of the child, serving his developing spirit. True teaching requires copious amounts of daily observation – being plugged into the changes occurring within the child. Love requires knowledge, and knowledge comes through observation.

As I practice this paradigm shift in the environment of the classroom, I am challenged as I return to the world. How do I treat those around me? Do I bring unrealistic expecations to relationships, or project constant judgement on those I meet? Do I truly observe the world around me, taking note of details, emotions, and experiences? As I quiet my heart in this process, I continue to unearth a spirit of pride and judgement that is difficult to confront. This level of self-realization requires a work of the soul.

And I ask, did I sign up for a teacher training course, or a radical process of self-develpoment?

I am eager to continue in this work of preparation, with the hope that I will be an educator who is humble and a willing servant. And also that I would be a citizen of the world, who is eager to love and honor those around me.