Happy Holidays

From where I’m sitting on the south coast of Australia, I’m very aware of how incredibly fortunate I am. After many months of severe lockdown – no schools, shops or public places open apart from the grocery stores – we no longer have active cases of Covid19 in the community here. It’s pretty strange when you know the rest of the world has a very different story. My Mum, sisters and many close friends live in the UK, so I try not to ponder too much on when we might meet again, and be thankful that they’re all well and relatively safe.

Time to reflect

This year has meant a huge shift for many people in how they work. My husband started working at home in March, like many others, and he’s still here. I can honestly say it’s been an interesting adjustment and one I think I’m still learning to deal with. We also had an odd time in the middle of the year where I took a teaching post and ended up doing most of the work at home.

Become a teacher, it’ll be fine

I originally trained as a teacher mainly because I was afraid to take on the competition of art school. It’s given me a really good skillset and I’m pleased that I have the confidence to deliver classes to pretty much any group of people. And I’m particularly proud of that because I have a hearing impairment from childhood and classroom teaching probably wasn’t the best profession for me from the get go. Several years ago though I told myself I would never again teach on staff in a school. I burnt out when I returned to teaching after having my first child. I was sure I’d completely failed at being a teacher.

Try again

Please be a teacher. Teachers are the most admirable and important people in the world. You don’t have to do it forever, but if you’re in doubt about what to do, be an amazing teacher. Tim Minchin

I have a friend who could sell ice to eskimos. Somehow she persuaded me that taking a short term contract teaching art and design in a school would be great. Several months later I can say that a lot of it was great. But it did remind me why teaching in schools can be incredibly debilitating (that’s a polite way of saying I felt utterly broken by the experience). The kids were great most of the time, but I think that was all that was great. It takes a lot of energy to present classes and keep them engaged, but it can be a whole lot of fun. In hindsight, I have realised that they were my clients, and from their feedback I know I did a good job. However, it’s the additional admin, planning, meetings, reporting and answering emails from parents, students and staff that is the debilitating bit. It never ever ends. It’s one of the reasons (and there are many, not least the appalling pay) why teachers are leaving the profession in their droves. But that’s a bigger issue. I know that long hours and admin are also part of running a business. But if I’m going to put that many hours into a job I would rather it was my own business any time.

Adapting just so you don’t drown

I took the job thinking it would be classroom based, because that was the plan. I took some extra training sessions during the holidays especially for this. During that time we all learnt we were going to be teaching online. So I went into an entirely different job with a massive learning curve and without being amongst my new team and colleagues.

What the experience did show me though is that I can teach, and I can learn to adapt that teaching. Teaching takes a million different forms, especially now you can learn anything online. I love teaching and the satisfaction of helping others in their creative pursuits. This Zoom teaching experience forced me to think out of the box. Some of the best experiences were putting together little videos on how to draw and using Photoshop and my Wacom through Zoom to show kids how to draw characters.

Onwards

I don’t like setting goals for next year too soon. It’s Christmas, we need to relax. But of course, as soon as you relax your mind starts coming up with creative ideas for what you want to do next. So I’m going to really focus on putting together a series of quality online classes next year on learning to draw, creating picture books and designing. It’s daunting and exciting. There’s a whole world of others doing it but I have experience and skills to share, and everyone has their own individual way of delivering.

So Happy Christmas and I hope you’re looking forward to that beautiful shiny New Year!

Posted by:Karen Erasmus

I am an illustrator and surface pattern designer. I have illustrated 18 picture books. I live in Melbourne, Australia with three kids, two dogs, four chickens and a mad husband. Life's busy. I also love to sew and cycle and visit galleries whenever I get the time.

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