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coming back to school

updated fri 31 aug 01


Doug Gray on wed 29 aug 01

I wasn't sure, at first, if I had much to add to this topic, Chris,
other than to say "do it, you won't regret it." But after a long 12
hour day at school, 9 hours in the classroom with students, it seems
appropriate that I share this story. I have a student in my ceramics
sculpture class this semester, I wouldn't speculate at her age, not
polite, but she and her husband are retired now. She had been taking
painting classes until two years ago when she first signed up for
ceramics. She had to work up to clay classes but she caught the bug and
caught it bad. I can't say that she ever seemed afraid of coming back
to school, not that I noticed anyway. She was too thrilled to be back.
Hard worker, gets her money's worth out of life. Class lasts three
hours and she is there two hours early just to work by herself. Too
much to get done. She has stopped asking me if she can make extra
projects, she knows I always say yes. She audits my course because she
is afraid she won't be able to keep up (she also like to travel, goes
anywhere she can at every chance she gets). But she always does more
work than any student in the class. I am amazed by her energy level and
man does she percolate ... ideas coming faster than she can scribble
down, writing on paper towels, backs of assignments, margins of
newspaper. Anyway, I think you get the picture...

Last spring she said she wanted to make a large sculpture for her
garden, something like and infinity sign, big and free standings think I
blinked to push away my doubts. Got her to work, and with in a few days
it was together, too big for her to lift and too big for the electric
kiln so we cut it apart and fired the pieces separately. Seemed easy,
but the pieces shrank unevenly, untwisted a bit in the firing, didn't
line up well after the bisque. I told her we would fix it later with
bondo or epoxy. She would have nothing of that. She broke out her
drimmel tool and sand paper and began reshaping the pieces so they would
fit better. Decide that she wanted the piece to be reflective, like
metal, but not as bright and new. I think I blinked again. That same
day she located a commercial glaze sample she liked and in no time it
was glazed four coats and awaiting the glaze firing. The pieces went in
and came out just as she wanted. I finally breathed easy and
temporarily stopped my nervous blinking.

Two days later I get a call at home asking me to come to her house. As
I pull up, I see the piece in her side garden, big, liquid in its
curves, and some what reflective. You can just see it from the road.
She had already epoxied the pieces back together. Her husband mixed and
poured the concrete slab on which it sat. It was beautiful. The garden
was extravagantly landscape (another of her passions, I discovered).
She wanted me to see it finish and in place before she headed out of
town on another excursion. This time to the Twin Cities. Her favorite
place in the USA, clean and organized, friendliest people anywhere, the
one place she'd prefer to live in the entire world. I realized then
that I blinked at her a lot, blinked out or amazement for her energy,
her motivation, her dedication, and her passion. As I left, she told me
that she would be taking my sculpture class this fall. She wanted to
work big. This time her husband blinked, rolled his eyes, began gearing
up for more concrete pads.

She is an inspiration to me and to the other students. She sets the bar
and doesn't even know it. And she's not alone. Two other retired
ladies I could tell you about. Each with their own story. Get the
three of them together in a class and watch out. I like having other
teachers in the room. Usually, their are as many teaches in the room as
people. Just have to catch them at the right moment, on the right
topic, in the right mood and I get to sit back and blink...what a world
we live in.

Doug (thanks deputy goddess and mr. mayor for the encouragement, i might
just become a teacher after all...someday)