The Art of Teaching

I have always loved books, and snooping around in bookstores is a pleasure I still love. (Having a kindle, I have learned, does not mean one no longer frequents bookstores.) Over the years I have purchased many books about writing, about creativity, about spiritual development, but have not yet read them all. Those books have waited patiently for me to be ready for them and the time is now; I have been reading voraciously. It’s the books about creativity that have particularly grabbed me recently, since I believe that I am entering a place and time in my life where I will finally be able to do creative activities that I’ve longed to have time for.

Creative Time and Space: Making Room for Making Art by Ricë Freeman-Zachery is about not only the physical aspects of making time and space for creativity, but also about making time and space in one’s mind. The last chapter even includes advice about how to “Take It On the Road” – perfect for me as my husband and I form plans to be away from home for about three months this summer and fall. We have even figured out a way to bring our wireless printer along in our motor home, so I’m feeling ready to hit the road. The book is a great source of tips and inspiration, and I’m sure I will go back and reference it often.

I am currently reading Peter London’sNo More Secondhand Art: Awakening the Artist Within, and even in the first two chapters I’ve had a huge epiphany. One thing I like about this book is that poets (it is hard to call myself a poet, even though I write a lot of poetry) are included in the group labeled “artists” who create “art.” Art is so often  defined only as visual art, and writers are left out in the cold, but not this book, and I like that. Artists and poets look at the world around them in very similar ways; I also enjoy creating visual art, and this book has allowed all of those parts of my brain to make connections with the content. Here’s the quote that got my attention:

Page from an altered book I made for Carina -- seems appropriate for this occasion.

“It is not uncommon for artists to reach a point in their development where they realize that what they know and can do is less than what there is to know and could be doing. This phase comes not at the point where their work is failing and seems uncertain, but at those moments of apparent great confidence in expression and elegance of presentation. In other words, those boundary-breaking phases of an artist’s development occur when one has full command of one’s craft and has portrayed with completeness the domain of one’s interest” (p. 30).

This resonated deeply within me. I believe that teaching has been an art form for me. Creativity is at the core of my teaching philosophy, and I have worked hard to inspire creativity in my students. When I read this passage, I realized that I have done all that I know and can do at my school, but it is less than there is for me to know, and it is less than what I can do.

I still have a lot to learn and I want to learn so much more! But my work at our little community school has reached a natural end, and so I must move on.  I am not done; I am shifting my energy in a different direction. It feels good.


Freeman-Zachery, Ricë. (2010). Creative Time and Space: Making Room for Making Art. Cincinnati, Ohio: Northlight Books.

London, Peter. (1989). No More Secondhand Art: Awakening the Artist Within. Boston: Shambhala Publications.


About harleywoman50

I retired from teaching in June 2011, and now am enjoying the good things I never had time to do before: traveling, writing, and creative arts. I also work as an educational consultant specializing in professional development for teachers; in this capacity I teach educators about their personalities using the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Instrument). I teach a course on how to differentiate instruction using type in the classroom, and several other workshops. Life is good.
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8 Responses to The Art of Teaching

  1. Thanks for this post! It was encouraging. I love writing. Writing is how I make sense of myself and the world. However well I write now, I owe much of it to my teachers when I was growing up. So my hat is off to you. I’m a teacher too, by the way. I agree with you: teaching is an art.

    Those creative writing books can be quite good and inspirational. What kind of writing do you prefer?

    • Hello, atomsofthought — My heart is in writing poetry, but I’ve sent off a book about my teaching to a publisher and am awaiting good news. Yes, I’m an eternal optimist, too. As I look forward to retirement I am planning on writing in other genres as well — travel, children’s, who knows what else! Thanks for your kind words, and thanks for reading.

      • That sounds like a book I would like to read. I’ve long thought there must be a market out there for quality writing on teaching, not just on how to teach, but about the experience itself–the highs, the lows, the complexities, the successes and the failures. Of all the jobs I’m familiar with, either directly or indirectly through friends who are not in education, teaching exposes a person to more experiences and greater emotional range than any. I feel that if the public understood the true nature of the job, we may be able to change the way teaching is viewed.

        Anyway, good luck with your writing! I look forward to reading about your experiences getting published.


      • Janette says:

        Have you tried Corwin/Sage Press for your book? Have I mentioned them before? They are soliciting manuscripts.

  2. Paul Hague says:

    Some of the most deeply moving art I have experienced is not visual. Music, poetry, the spoken word. Great writing.

  3. Gwen in Oman says:

    It is quite a milestone, reaching the last year of paid/formal teaching, yes? ….and we are lucky to get there and savor it as we experience it for the last time. I have 29 years in my pocket of experience, and seems like the light is showing at the end of the tunnel now. I will keep up with you, Harleywoman, and see how you are doing as you transition. Where are you teaching?

    • Greetings to you, Gwen — Yes, it is a huge milestone, sometimes very exciting and wonderful, and sometimes terrifying. I have learned much through writing the blog this year, it has helped me to process the enormity of it, and I have more moments of feeling excited about it now, and very few opposing feelings. I teach in a small town of about 4000 people in New Hampshire, USA; and I’ve looked for your city on the map — you are very far away! But perhaps teachers have much in common no matter where they reside. Welcome to my blog — I hope you will enjoy the reading and find it helpful as you make your own journey.

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