Monday, December 26, 2016

New Online Workshop Launches January 1, 2017

Just six days until I launch my new online workshop, Vision: A Visual Journal Workshop. I've worked hard over the last couple of months to put together this four part workshop that goes through the steps that I used to create the above two-page spread.

Focusing on the theme "Vision", I tried to explore what I am envisioning for my future, and what better way to start off the new year. I use simple materials, and walk you through my process to build this richly layered spread.

I have the workshop marked down to a special discounted rate though January 1st, so act fast to save. Come the New Year, the workshop will launch, but it'll be back at it's regular price.

Click Here for more info and to register. I hope that you can be a part of my little adventure!

Friday, December 23, 2016

A Sneak Peek!

Since October, I've been working on a new book, a book that I'd like to self publish by the spring. This solo venture, is based on a couple challenges I've done over the past couple of years, the 15 for 30 Challenge and the Big Idea Challenge, and I've had the idea of packing a book full of such challenges.

We could all use a creative nudge every now and then, especially when we seem to have run out of ideas. We can easily become creatively blocked, and it’s during those times when we could use a little jolt to get the creative juices flowing again. This book will be full of such creative nudges and sparks, and I'm envisioning a book of 365 challenges, a year's worth. Readers will be able to use it everyday, or they'll be able to turn to random challenges when they need a nudge. Some people have criticized Journal Fodder 365 for not having 365 prompts, and in a way I wanted to answer those critiques with this new book.

It took some effort to brainstorm and develop 365 distinct ideas for challenges, and I found that I had to get very specific in order to come up with them all - 365 ideas is truly a lot of ideas. There are challenges with materials, ideas, tools, and techniques, and I've tried to spread them randomly throughout the book so that there is consistently a good mix.

The biggest challenge for me is design. Since my plan is to self publish the book, I need to design it myself, or pay someone else to design it. I'm an artist, but not a graphic designer. It's a challenge to use the software, but I think that I'm getting it figured out. I've written more than a third of the challenges, and I've begun playing around with the page design for the challenges. I'm thinking that the book will be 144 pages with three challenges per page, and I mocked up the first page of challenges just to get an idea of what the pages might look like (See the image above).

This is by no means the final design for the pages, and I'm certain that things will change drastically over the next couple of months. But it helps me to visualize the book.

I just wanted to give you a sneak peek into what I've been doing. I hope that I can pull it all together by spring.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Vision: A Visual Journal Workshop

I've been pretty busy over the past month or so, and I have quite a few things in the works. I've been working on exhibiting my work more. Check out my work currently at Gladiola Girls in Lexington, VA, and I'm scheduled to have an exhibit at one of the local libraries in January and February. Not to mention an exhibit in North Carolina in the spring. In my new role as Program Manager at the Round Hill Arts Center, I've been busy scheduling new classes for the winter and spring, including a couple of classes that I'll be teaching. In addition to all of this, I've been hard at work on several projects, including the new self-published book that I announced back in October, and I just accepted an invitation to be part of someone else's project (more on this later).

In the midst of all of this, I've been working on putting together a new online workshop. It's been nearly a year since I launched my first online workshop, and I had hoped to have several more out by now, but unfortunately life has a way of interceding and time slips away. However, I'm close to finishing the videos and the written tutorial for this new workshop, and my goal is to launch it on January 1, 2017.

Vision: A Visual Journal Workshop is a mini online workshop where I demonstrate making a two-page spread that focuses on the theme vision (you can see a detail of the spread above). I think the theme is quite appropriate for a New Year's release. The workshop focuses on how I build up layers on my pages, and it is packed with techniques and ideas. The best part is that it gives a good "behind the scenes" look at the making of a journal spread. The workshop, as it stands right now, consists of four video segments and a 20 page written tutorial, and I'm hoping to have it up on the website for pre-registration by the end of the week with a pre-registration discount, of course.

Look for more to come!

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Best Gifts are from the heART!

If you're looking for unique, one-of-a-kind gifts for the upcoming holidays, I have a number things in the JFJ Big Cartel Shop. Although most of my larger work is on display in Lexington, VA at Gladiola Girls, I have quite a few smaller paintings and mixed media pieces in the shop, including the radiating design above, and the monster painting below.

I also have some polymer clay monster sculptures and monster pendants.

And for the teacher in your life, there are digital downloads!

Finally, I have an online workshop that I launched last year!

Check out all of my goodies, and act fast so things can ship in time for Christmas!

Monday, December 5, 2016


I've been attracted to mandalas lately. Well, I guess that I have been attracted to them for quite some time. I've always seen my radiating designs as mandalas of sorts, but it hasn't been until now that I have pursued making more formal mandalas. 

It wasn't until I saw the movie Doctor Strange that I decided to explore mandalas of my own. There was something intriguing in the way mandala designs were used within the movie. I've never read the comic books, so I don't know if these sacred circles were part of their visual vocabulary. But I was fascinated by the visual impact in the movie, and I had to start making my own. I didn't copy the ones from the movie, and there are lots of mandala images, resources, and tutorials on the web. But I needed to find my own way.

I grabbed a compass, a ruler, pencil, eraser, and my Faber-Castell Pitt Pens, and began exploring. I'm in the initial stages now of experimenting, and I don't know where this is leading. But that is the fun and excitement of art. An idea takes root, and through cultivation, you get to see it grow and change and bloom.

Have you created mandalas? What drew you to them? What insight did you take away from making them?

Monday, November 28, 2016

21 SECRETS Retirement Sale!

21 SECRETS Spring and Fall 2015 are being retired by Dirty Footprints Studio, and that means Retirement Sale!

If you want to save $30 off the $98 regular price on this jam-packed set of workshops, act fast. This sale starts today, November 28 and lasts through Saturday, December 3! After this date, the 2015 workshops will no longer be available for purchase, but buyers will have lifetime access to all content and videos.

We were very grateful to be part of the Spring 2015 workshops, so if you want to take advantage of this awesome deal, use the coupon code: RETIRE, and check out the 21 SECRETS website!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Art and Soul Portland 2017

I just uploaded a fun little video to promote our spring workshops at Art and Soul in Portland the weekend of April 8 and 9, 2017.

For more info and to register check out the Art and Soul website.

If you can't make Portland, check out our Events page to see our schedule of events, appearances, and other workshops for the Spring.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

New Job!

I am excited to announce that come December 1, I'll officially be the new Program Manager at the Round Hill Arts Center. Right now I'm doing some work behind the scenes as I learn the ropes and ease into things. It seems a little strange that after 20 years of teaching art in the public schools to have a position that isn't directly linked to public schools, though this new position is all about art and teaching. In my new role, I'll be responsible for scheduling a variety of classes, events, and programs the center has to offer. Not only will I be bringing in some fabulous local artists to teach at the center, but I will also have the opportunity to teach some workshops myself. It's a part-time position which will give me time to work on my art and my own projects, and I'll still be able to travel and offer workshops in a variety of venues.

I'm so excited to start this new adventure, and I think that it will fit in well with what I'm envisioning for myself. So keep a look out for things to come!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Fall Conferences

The view from the hotel in Naples, FL
This fall has been extremely busy with travel, exhibitions, yard sales, and more, but the biggest thing has been the conferences. Over the past few years, Dave and I have been very fortunate to be able to attend at least two fall art education conferences each year, and this year was no exception.

Working on the keynote for FAEA
October found us in Naples, Florida presenting at the Florida Art Education Association's Conference where we gave a talk about being artists and educators. We even tied in my analogy of teaching being a giant hairball, and aptly enough we titled it The Artist, the Educator, and the Hairball.

Dave giving some directions during our workshop

We also led a hands-on workshop on the visual journal, and had a good group of art educators engaging, reflecting, and creating.

Dave's journal during the FAEA workshop
Later in October, I presented solo at a completely new venue for a completely different audience. I was honored to present at the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care Conference in Tysons Corner, VA. At the urging of my wife, who is a licensed veterinary technician, and a good friend, who is a veterinarian, I put in a proposal for using the visual journal as a means to cope with the stress and grief of pet loss. It was nice to present to a different audience on the power of art and the visual journal.

The conference packet and my journal page for the IAAHPC Conference

Dave was able to attend the West Virginia Art Education Association's Fall Conference in Daniels, WV. He presented multiple seminars and hands-on workshops to a new audience of art educators. (Sorry, I don't have any photos.)

A view of the mountains from the town of Breckenridge.
And finally, Dave and I just got back from Breckenridge, Colorado for the Colorado Art Education Association's Fall Conference, where we presented a keynote and two hands-on workshops. We stuck with the same topic that we used in Florida for our keynote, and we presented a workshop on opening up to creativity and one on the visual journal.

Journaling in our room at the CAEA Conference
It's been an awesome month of connection, and I've thoroughly enjoyed working with and inspiring not only art educators, but also folks in the veterinary field. I feel truly at home when I'm sharing my art, myself, and the power of the visual journal, and as a self-employed artist, I am now free to do more of this type of thing. I am truly grateful to everyone responsible for making these events happen, and allowing me to share my journey and my passion.

Workshop participants priming the pump of creativity
If you'd like to share in the journey, make certain to check out all of our upcoming events. If you'd like for us to come to your school, your association, or your studio, please contact us, and we can work out the details. We are always looking for more opportunities to share and connect.

Dave gearing up for our CAEA keynote
Thank you to all the board members and all the membership of the FAEA, IAAHPC, WVAEA, and CAEA for making it all happen.

Keynote selfie

Art teachers just gotta make some art!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Artwork in Lexington, VA

I spent a beautiful day yesterday driving to Lexington, VA to hang up sixteen pieces of art at Gladiola Girls at 34 S. Main Street. Although the shop sells mostly women's clothing, they do sell some homewares and other miscellaneous accessories, and there was ample wall space for my pieces.

I took primarily newer work, much of it completed in the past four or five months, but I also took a couple of my larger, older Excavation pieces to hang.

I might be biased, but I think that my art complements the contents of the shop quite nicely. If you're in the Lexington, VA area, make certain to stop by and check out my work. It'll be up for all of November, and original artwork makes for the best presents for the holidays!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Yard and Art Sale!

We're having a Yard and Art Sale this Saturday, October 29, at my home studio in Purcellville, VA from 8AM to 3PM. Come on out to find cheap household items and awesome art! Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Something in the Works!

I've been excitedly working on a new project over the past week after attending a talk by friend and writing coach David Hazard. David talked at a local library about becoming a self published author and how easy it is now with print-on-demand technology. It got me thinking about the possibilities of self publishing more Journal Fodder Junkies books as well as some other books that I have had in mind.

An idea has been brewing inside of my brain for the last few months, and I kept thinking about how I could bring it to fruition. David's talk sparked a catharsis, and I now have a clear direction in mind. Over the past couple of days I have been brainstorming, writing, and diving back into old journals working on an idea for a new book.

That's right, I want to self publish a new book, and I'm setting myself a deadline of next spring to get it done. I'll nail down an exact date in a couple of months when I get a bit further along in the process. I won't share too many details right now, and I think I have a title. I need to think about it a bit more, but my idea is to create another visual journaling book that would fit in with our other two books - 8.5"x11" with 144 pages, full color. I'll share more details over time.

I'm so excited! I can't wait to share this new creation with the world. But I'll have to wait because I'm just in the very first stages. Until then, I'll be sharing my progress.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Saturday Fun - Line and Wine

This past Saturday was my first Line and Wine workshop in my home studio (also known as the garage). I think this time of year is a busy time for lots of people, so it was a very small and intimate class of one. My friend Marcia stopped by, and we spent a couple of hours painting.

I led Marcia on a little exploration of drawing intuitive lines before tackling the 16x20 inch canvas, and then we painted. It was great getting a chance to know Marcia better, and to spend time teaching painting skills. Though I might not be a public school teacher, I am still a teacher, and I am looking forward to my upcoming Line and Wine classes.

Though this intuitive process usually leads to rather abstract or non-objective results, it doesn't have to, and the painter is free to turn the lines into something recognizable. Neither Marcia's paint nor mine went in a representational direction, but I love the fact that our paintings are completely different. I just can't teach someone to make exactly what I'm making.

I want to thank Marcia for coming out to my inaugural class. It was a lot of fun. I'm hoping to present this class in the future at some of the local wineries.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Line and Wine

There are just a few days left before the first Line and Wine painting Workshop at my Purcellville, VA studio. If you're planning on signing up, do so ASAP. Spaces are filling up!

Click here for more information and to register.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Art at the Mill

Photo from the Clarke County Historical Association
I am pleased to announce that I had eight pieces accepted for the Art at the Mill exhibit at the historic Burwell-Morgan Mill in Millwood, VA. This annual event brings together approximately 1000 works of art by 300 artists, and I am excited to be one of them this year.

Along with some older artwork, I have Meditate (above) and Radiate (below) in the exhibit. If you want to see it along with a whole heck of a lot of other art, the exhibit is open daily now until October 16. I haven't had a chance to check it out yet, but I'm hoping to get there before it closes. I hope you can make it out!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Cascades Arts & Crafts Fair

There's a lot going on in October, and I have been busy making, painting, and creating trying to get ready for it all.

Today I want to invite you out this Saturday, October 1, to the 2016 Cascades Arts & Crafts Fair hosted by the Loudoun County Senior Center at Cascades Advisory Board. I'll be there along with other local artists hawking my wares!

I'll have a bunch of new polymer clay monsters along with monster head pendants, and I'll have a bunch of new artwork as well. So come on out from 9 AM to 3 PM this Saturday to see what I've been making in the studio. The arts and crafts fair will be located in the parking lot of the senior center 21060 Whitfield Place, Sterling, VA. I hope that you can make it out!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Big Idea Challenge Available Now!

As I promised last week, I've just made the Big Ideas Challenge available for download in the JFJ Shop. For 5 bucks you get a PDF of the challenge, a PowerPoint, a set of Big Idea cards, and a set of Inspirational cards.

So for any teachers wishing to use the challenge with their students or any artists wishing for a challenge, head over to the shop now!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Something in the Works

One thing that I have learned about being a full time artist over the past few weeks, is that about half of my time is spent on the computer working on things that are not directly related to actually making art. I've spent a lot of time working on workshop proposals, emailing people about workshops and displaying art, and creating a variety of resources. And that's what today has been all about - the computer, but I have made a lot of headway on a new resource that I hope to have uploaded to the JFJ Online Shop by next Monday.

I've spent a good portion of the last two days translating my art challenge from July, the Big Idea Challenge, into some ready to use resources for artists, teachers, and the general public. This is going to be similar to what I did with the 15 for 30 Challenge that's in the shop now. There will be a PDF, PowerPoint, and a couple of extras available for download all for just $5.00. So look for this new resource in the shop by Monday, Sept 19!

Monday, September 12, 2016

New Painting Workshops for October and November

You've probably seen how popular the paint and wine events have become at restaurants, bars, and wineries over the last couple of years. I certainly have, and I've been contemplating how I can put my own spin on this idea because I don't want to lead a group of people to all paint the same thing.

So, I came up with Line and Wine, a two-hour painting class where we'll use an intuitive approach to create completely unique and original paintings.

Before I approach the local wineries, I thought that I'd try it out first in my studio in Purcellville, VA with small groups so that I could get some photos and feedback. So, I'm inviting you to come to my studio on one or more of four dates in October and November, to try it out.

Classes like this are typically $35 to $45 dollars for a two hour experience, but I'm offering mine for $30. That's about a 15% to 30% discount! Now, I can't legally include wine in the price of class, but refreshments, including adult beverages will be available for everyone to enjoy at no charge. Included in the price is a 16 x 20 inch canvas, access to all materials and equipment needed, and one of six spots in my studio.

That's right, I'll only have six spots available for each class. That's why I'm offering it four times, so make sure to sign up soon. The first class is just a month away!
  • Saturday, October 15, 1-3PM
  • Wednesday, October 19, 7-9PM
  • Sunday, November 13, 1-3PM
  • Tuesday, November 15, 7-9PM

Once you sign up, you'll receive an email with details and directions.

Click here to see a full description and to sign up!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

I'm on a Mission!

I have always loved making art and sharing it with people. Growing up in Washington, PA, I couldn't wait to share my latest drawings with family and friends, and I always lugged a sketchbook or drawing pad nearly everywhere that I went. That hasn't changed much over the years, but now with computers, the Internet, and social media it's easy to share not just with friends and family, but with the world.

Though I may no longer be a public school teacher, I will always be a teacher, and I will always look for ways to share my art, my techniques, my thoughts, and myself. To that end, I have rededicated myself to making videos and helping people tap into their creativity. I threw together a short video announcing my mission. Check it out below, and look for more videos to come soon.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Teaching is a Giant Hairball

Over the past few months, I’ve been asked by friends, family, and acquaintances why I walked away from teaching.

I could rant and rave about all the reasons that I stepped away from a twenty-year career as an art teacher in the public schools, but that would be just self-satisfying whining and complaining. I could simply say that it was to follow my dream of being an artist, but that’s just part of the reason. Instead of ranting and raving or giving a simple answer about following a dream, I want to show how teaching had changed during those twenty years in order to give people a little perspective into what teachers face.

Why I left a salaried position with good benefits to be a self employed artist boils down to one thing.

Teaching is a giant hairball.

If you're not a teacher, you might be scratching your head right now, thinking, “Huh?” My teacher friends probably already understand. Let me first say, that this is not my own idea. I am blatantly stealing the analogy from Gordon MacKenzie who worked for Hallmark Cards for thirty years. In his book, Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace, MacKenzie describes how he survived working for Hallmark as an artist by orbiting the giant hairball that was Hallmark. By staying disentangled from the bureaucratic, corporate mess he was able to survive. He describes Hallmark as a giant hairball, and how every new decision, policy, and procedure added another hair to the hairball, and over time, Hallmark grew into a massive tangle of hair because hairs were never taken away, only added.

I read that, and I thought, “Teaching is a giant hairball!” But there’s no way to orbit around it like Gordon MacKenzie did. As a teacher, you can’t stay on the fringe and not be pulled into the mess. You have to dive into that mass of tangled hairs and fight your way to clear a path to teaching. Simply put, teaching is full of rules, procedures, protocols, policies, regulations, and expectations that get in the way of teaching, and it has always been that way. But it has grown worse steadily with each passing year. It has become a bigger hairball, and that is why I left. I grew tired of fighting the massive tangle of hairs that obscured why I was there — the teaching.

Let me extend MacKenzie’s analogy a bit to illustrate this to the fullest extent that I can.

Let’s imagine that teaching is a red rubber ball. Visualize that bright, bouncy ball. In it’s purest and simplest form teaching is about the connection between the teacher and the student, and there isn’t anything that gets in the way. You see the red rubber ball clearly and there are no tangles, no hairs, no impediments. The teacher has ready access to the red rubber ball of teaching. This pure teaching is rarely the case in public school, but there are instances that come close. Tutoring an individual one-on-one or teaching a class to the general public at an art center or community center might be the closest, but it’s not the usual case in public school.

In reality there have always been rules and regulations in public schools, so that bright red ball of teaching has always had a few hairs wrapped around it. There is no way around it. There have to be policies, procedures, and expectations in a school, or there might be anarchy. There has to be some kind of bureaucracy, but ideally, it shouldn’t hinder the teaching. These hairs shouldn't take much time to deal with allowing the teacher to quickly uncover the rubber ball and dive into teaching. That would be an ideal situation in today’s world of teaching.

And that’s kind of how it was when I started teaching twenty years ago. There wasn’t much that got in the way. I had a schedule to contend with, meetings every now and then, planning to complete, grading to do, and a few phone calls to make. But those things were pretty easy to deal with, and I felt like much of my time was really dedicated to that connection between the students and myself. I was pretty much left alone, and the administration checked in occasionally to see how things were going. So, yes, teaching was a hairball, but it wasn’t daunting and overwhelming.  It wasn’t a giant tangled mess yet.

Over the years, however, more and more and more hairs have been added to the red rubber ball of teaching. It’s interesting to note that this corresponds to a rise in the use of technology, and each year many of the newly added hairs have dealt directly and indirectly with technology. But I digress. Nowadays, the tangled mess of hairs obscures the essential core that is teaching, and it takes increasingly more time and energy to deal with these issues. Remember hairs are always added, but they are never taken away. Some people might think, “So what, every job is like that. Bosses always add more things for you to do. Deal with it!”

But let me try to show the scope of things that were required, but are not necessary or even productive to teaching.

During my last few years of teaching, I had to deal with an increasing number of things that were handed down by administrators, and I had to do them. I had to untangle this mass of hairs that left little room to focus on the actual teaching, and administrators were constantly hovering and micro-managing to make certain that they were done so the appropriate boxes could be checked off on my end of the year evaluation.

Let me share a few specifics.

Each year new district-wide mandates and requirements and new school-based initiatives and expectations were announced, and each required hours and hours of professional development to learn about these new ideas and how to implement them, and planning to figure out the best way to implement them. The ideas had to be implemented, and of course, data had to be collected to support these multiple initiatives. To show that we had implemented them, we had to fill out and file reports that documented the progress and completion of the new initiatives. Each of these things added many more hairs to the massive hairball.

When I wasn’t dealing with these district-wide and school-based mandates, I had other issues to deal with, like the hundred emails that came daily. Most of them could be ignored, but a handful of the emails needed to be answered thoughtfully and diligently. Simple, quick replies wouldn’t suffice, and there was the expectation that a reply would be sent within 24 hours. I had to deal with rising discipline problems because students were stressed out from the regime of standardized tests and assessments they had to endure. Many students just couldn’t hold it together all the time, so there were referrals and reports and conversations with parents, teachers, counselors, and the principal about it all. Each of these added more and more layers to the hairball.

There were the constant disruptions in the schedule with assemblies, field trips, testing, parties, and special events. It was impossible to keep all the classes working at the same pace because of all the things that interrupted the flow of instruction and the sequences of learning. Of course, there were meetings. They might be a necessity of schools, but there were faculty meetings, and team meetings, and committee meetings that never really seemed to accomplish anything. I guess they did satisfy part of the School Improvement Plan. I can’t forget about duties, where teachers were taken out of their classrooms to cover the hallway, or to stand in a noisy cafeteria, or to stand outside in rain, sleet, snow, and heat for bus or car duty. All of these things just added more hairs to the giant hairball.

Grading was a whole other situation. It was never a simply task, but when grade books moved to the Internet so that parents and students could have access to their grades 24/7, a whole new layer of hairs were added to the red rubber ball of teaching. A simple task like entering an assignment to be graded (not the actual grading, mind you) could take an hour. That’s just for a single assignment. So, more hairs.

I list these things not to complain, but to illustrate some of the things that teachers have to deal with that have little to do with actual teaching. I know that I haven’t included everything, and there are many other things that I could add. I’m quite certain that other teachers could add things that I can’t even think of right now. I just want to make it clear that teachers have to untangled a whole lot just to get to the teaching, and it’s not like once all of this tangled mass of bureaucratic stuff is cleared, you're done with it for the year. No, a teacher has to deal with this on a daily basis. You have to go in and untangle the giant hairball each and everyday so that you can get to what’s underneath — that red rubber ball. After all, that’s why there’s school in the first place — to connect with students and teach them. The most important part of teaching is buried, and a teacher has to work hard to clear away the extraneous stuff.

It’s exhausting to struggle with that tangled mess everyday, and the only way to deal with it — to get it all untangled is to stay late, come in early, or take work home with you. There’s just not enough time in the school day to get it all done because school districts add more and more for teachers to do but never add more time, and there becomes an expectation that you will dedicate your own time to get it all done because, after all, it’s for the kids! Though the teacher’s contract gives specific times that the teacher is suppose to be at work, all the teachers I know, work well beyond the contract. The great teachers do that and more. They sacrifice time with family and friends in order to get it all done. They work hard going in on weekends and taking work home, but at the same time, there is a devaluing of the profession. Administrators and principals see that teachers will continually give of their own time, and so it becomes another expectation. But all of those extra hours of staying late and going in early and on weekends deflate the profession and the salaries of the teachers. And that’s what I couldn’t take anymore — the devaluing of my profession by the school board and the administrators by heaping on more and more every year, with the expectation that it will all just get done and, oh, there will still be outstanding teaching and learning going on in the classroom.

In the end I didn’t have the energy or the stamina to go in day after day and deal with so many things that had nothing to do with the core of teaching. I have always loved sharing my art and my passion for art. Teaching always gave me a way to do just that, but after fighting to untangle the mass of hairs day in and day out for years and years, I had no energy left for my students, for my art, for my wife, for my friends, or for myself. I was burned out, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I’d come home exhausted and worn out, and all I wanted to do was to sleep or veg out in front of the tv.

I used to love teaching, and there was nothing like seeing the look on a student’s face when they struggled and struggled with an idea or concept and then finally got it. But teaching had changed so much in the twenty years that I taught. It seems like teaching now isn’t about the connection between student and teacher, though administrators try to tell you that it is. Teaching seems to be about dealing with a tangled mess and checking off boxes to say that you’ve done it, and that’s why I don’t love teaching anymore. Teaching changed, and I just don’t love it. I’m afraid that it’s just going to get worse, and that’s very unfortunate and very disheartening.

Teaching is a giant hairball that keeps growing and growing, and I just couldn’t take untangling that mess anymore. That is why I left.