180 Days: A Year in the Classroom, 2010-2011

This project is a visual diary of my life as a teacher. Each drawing represents one school day during the 2010-11 school year, when I worked as an arts specialist with Youth in Arts in the Sausalito Marin City School District. I taught grades K-5 at both the regular public school, Bayside Elementary, and the charter school, Willow Creek Academy, which reside on the same campus.

I created this teaching journal as a way to process and reflect on my daily experiences as an educator. It felt necessary to begin unraveling the layered politics of the classroom as well as the interaction between the institution of public education and society at-large to eventually become the teacher I strive to be. I see this journal as a personal embrace of the teaching identity and also as a tribute to all teachers, who struggle and succeed everyday behind closed doors.

After each school day last year, I returned to the studio to take notes, sketch, and create a drawing. Some days the image was based on an inspiring moment with a student, and some came from photos I’d taken that day. Other days, drawings were influenced by the institutional racism that pervaded each moment of working with kids of color. In addition, as one of the few teachers that served two distinct schools on the same campus, I often found myself pulled in two directions by people who had different ideas about education and the world. The studio was a safe place where I could sort through my emotions and focus on how I felt and what I thought.

What I’ve learned most from this journaling process is that teaching is not straightforward. It has dips and turns, ups and downs; like all things, there are good days and bad. It is vital to celebrate the successes with joy and gratitude and to approach the difficult moments with honesty and deep reflection. This realization has helped me work toward a better practice so that tomorrow, and every day thereafter, I can be a better teacher.

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