Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Taking the Leap


Over the past three weeks, I have made an exciting announcement at my various workshops and presentations, and there is nothing more daunting and more liberating than standing in front of an audience whether it’s a handful of people or over 300 and declaring your intentions. So, I thought that I would make that declaration even more concrete.


After 20 years of teaching in public schools in Maryland and Virginia, I am taking the leap and stepping away from that profession to pursue being an artist/writer/speaker/workshop presenter full time. It’s a scary transition fraught with risk going from a secure job with a salary to a calling that is going to involve a lot of uncertainty, a lot of hustle, and hopefully a lot of reward.

For seven or eight years now, I have dreamed of the day that I could walk away from my career as a public school teacher, and I kept waiting for the perfect time and the perfect circumstances. I made plans only to see the plans derailed. So, I’ve decided to stop waiting. If I wait for circumstances to be perfect, for the time when there’s enough money in the bank, or for that big break, I’ll be waiting a long time. So I have come to the decision that the time is now. It is with much excitement and a little trepidation that I announce that my 20th year of teaching will be my last so that I can follow my dream.

For 20 years, I have stuck with a trying and challenging job that has brought me little satisfaction, and one that no longer resonates with me. I began my career in the late 90’s teaching in inner city Baltimore. To say it was challenging is an understatement, but I figured the challenges and difficulties were from being a new teacher in an inner city school. I survived those two years in Baltimore, and landed in Loudoun County, Virginia - the polar opposite of the inner city. I passed off the difficulties that I then faced as being a fairly inexperienced teacher, and I expected that over time, things would get better. As I gained experience, as I gained insight, I would rise above the challenges.

But teaching has changed so much over the last 20 years. Students have changed, the requirements of teaching have changed, the environment and the expectations have changed. If I could simply teach, I’d continue being a teacher, but all of that other stuff gets in the way. There are so many particulars that I won’t even get into, but simply, I feel that I disconnect with my authentic self when I walk into my classroom. I feel that I do not belong there. Yes, I have days when my students amaze me and bring me great joy, and nothing beats that moment when a struggling student “gets it” and you can see the light bulb go on as the look on their face changes, but those moments are few and far between. I am tired and drained from all the meetings, mandates, data collecting, grading, and extras that have nothing to do with teaching. How can I get my students excited to be in my class when I’m not excited?

So, I am stepping away.

I come alive when I make my art, when I write about my art and my process, and when I step in front of a group of people and teach them about my art and my process. I have so enjoyed exploring my art over the past few months, and teaching these last three weeks in Portland, Galax, and Chicago. All of these experiences, whether making art in my studio or standing in front of 300 educators, resonate with my spirit. I feel at home, and the most connected to myself during those times. No grades, no committee meetings, no administrative mandates, no extra b.s. Just me connecting with my art and hopefully inspiring other people.

And that’s what I’m going to do - make art, write about art, and teach about art. Several things have already begun aligning to reinforce that I am making the best decision for myself. I am setting my intention and preparing to take one of the biggest leaps of my life. I am ready to start a new chapter in my life - a chapter of authentic living and following my heart.


Here’s to taking the leap!

11 comments:

Wynne Gruffyd said...

I envy the leap of faith you are making and I am sure that you will be successful! I know that as a teacher, the single most important professional development workshop I have ever been involved in was with you and Dave at NCCAT in Cullowhee, NC. Even though the week long workshop wasn't geared for my social studies or language arts middle school curriculum, I have made journaling and interactive notebooks a large part of both of those subjects and have incorporated techniques that I was taught in your workshop. Kudos to you! As I approach retirement (I would do it tomorrow if I could), I am also looking at what I can do to further my artistic endeavors. Indeed schools, children, curriculums, duties, paperwork and meetings have changed and not always for the better in the years I have been teaching. I wish you much happiness, fulfillment and success as you move into the next phase of your life!

Penney said...

Although leaving a secure position is scary, you are absolutely right in giving up the search for the "perfect time" to leave the classroom. As a former teacher it pains me to read about teachers such as yourself leaving and all the teaching students will miss, but................ I did it myself and I'm glad I did! We love having you inspire us here in Galax and selfishly look forward to seeing you more. Best wishes on your leap of faith, it all works out the way it's supposed to. Big Hugs!

Carla said...

Good for you. Make it work. You can.

Carla said...

Good for you. Make it work. You can.

Uncle Duane and Aunt Faye said...

Eric, we can understand your decision as you have loved art since you were a LITTLE kid.
You have always succeeded in anything you have undertaken. Your uncle and I wish you well in "your leap of faith."

Angelique Madere said...

I can't wait to see the wonderful art and amazing books you will come up with! I also am excited about more classes! Looking forward to everything! You CAN do this!

Glenise Ward said...

wow, huge congrats!! Nothing wrong with taking that leap of faith & finding your wings once you're in the air! Good for you!

Anonymous said...

I remember being drawn to The Journal Junkies Workshop on the New Books section at my library, checking it out, reading it immediately, and having my world change for the better. The first idea that resonated was writing my cr*p down and obscuring it so the snoops can't read it! I shared the concept with a cancer-stricken friend, and we had some obfuscation sessions with markers, paint, scissors, and glue. It might sound strange for a complete stranger to say this, but I'm proud of you for making the tough decision, and I hope to see more books, classes, blog posts, and, yes, even magazine articles about journal fodder processing!

Eric said...

Thank you all so much for the words of support and encouragement. It means a great deal to me.

Bedsit Diary said...

Fantastic news. Congratulations! Life is all about taking chances. You will make it work and inspire more people through more time to travel, more time to produce books. We may even get you over to England for a workshop, I promise we have excellent fodder :-)

Bedsit Diary said...

Fantastic news. Congratulations! Life is all about taking chances. You will make it work and inspire more people through more time to travel, more time to produce books. We may even get you over to England for a workshop, I promise we have excellent fodder :-)