Hazel was a little girl with a sparkling imagination. I met her by chance at a new job as a caregiver at a before and after school program in Vancouver. I enjoyed the job because of its relaxed play based atmosphere. I remember meeting Hazel when she was five. She had vibrant blue eyes and a charming freckled nose that made me notice her. She was also quite sensitive and never liked it when her parents left. I could relate to her instantly. I remember that feeling within, that heart clench when I was left as a young child. No parent enjoys it either, but it seems it has become necessary in our busy and expensive world.
Hazel and I became friends. She would follow me around the space and dance and imagine and talk and talk some more about wondrous things. She always had a story brewing and would go in and out of her own Hazel world. It was a delight to watch. I was often inspired by her and would ask her lots of questions regarding my characters and the fantasy world I was building. Strangely our worlds were quite similar and I’ve noticed that most otherworlds in myth and legend echo with the same themes throughout time and culture.
I also believe Hazel helped me decide to become a teacher. Prior to working as a caregiver I had wanted to be in film as an actor, or animation as a storyteller but none of these attempts seemed to be fruitful.
They felt stilted and at times jarring. However, I noticed that my gifts of drama and drawing seemed to help me connect with the young. I enjoyed teaching children in that setting so much that I decided to pursue it as a teacher.
At first it felt strange because I had spent so many years wishing to be free from school, away from teachers and what felt like a punishing prison rather than a learning lab.
But attending the UBC program was one of the greater decisions in my life because everything sort of clicked and the work flowed and it didn’t seem like work at all. I felt for the first time that my imaginative ways were starting to help me.
The teacher program was called teaching from the heART, it was arts based education, which really spoke to me. I was thankfully placed with a teacher mentor who shared similar ideas about creativity in the classroom. It was a perfect practicum. I created a mythical dragon unit and I was excited to try out some other ambitious projects that would stretch the student’s creative minds. The sponsor teacher and I worked really well together on a stop motion animation film about fairy tales.
This project was all about imagination and how to take fairytale elements (good vs evil) and twist them to make a new story. The imagination of the students astounded me. They really believed in the value of creating their own version and everybody contributed their individual gifts.They really enjoyed exploring and building their own worlds through sets and characters. I will post more about this project soon.
The animation project kick started my career because it was different. No other teacher had attempted such a project and so my creativity made me stand out from the crowd a bit, which is good in such a competitive job market. I had a great team of supporters such as an Ken Priebe an animator at VanArts and Advah Soudack a fabulous voice actor and good friend. As well as the Emilylongworth Memorial Fund, which was a grant I applied for at UBC. All these people and resources supported the idea and helped the project to really take off.
It was this animation project, this believing in the creative that helped me receive praise and boost my confidence that I could teach and I could inspire. I am honored to have this privilege of teaching the young, it is such a responsibility and one I do not take lightly.
The young are the heart of the future and they need to imagine a creative and thriving world.
If you have a story on how creativity and imagination has helped you then consider commenting and adding to the dialogue.
I invite you to free your imagination and wonder and wait for ideas to brew. Ideas that could really change your life for the better.