An educator at heart, I have worked as a swim instructor, camp counselor, classroom teacher, museum educator, magnet program coordinator, and arts integration specialist. I love to inspire students of all ages to step out of their comfort zones and discover new talents. I successfully stepped out of my own comfort zone by writing the first draft of this story in 30 days as part of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).
Extended Version: Stories: I grew up in a family of five, but my extended family is huge. My paternal grandfather was one of fourteen kids. Now imagine each one of those fourteen having kids of their own (and in one case ten of them)…that’s a lot of cousins! I can remember being at a family event and asking my mom (an only child that married into the madness) on many occasions, “How exactly am I related to her/him?”
I’m pretty sure that these early experiences helped me develop a pretty strong aptitude for remembering names and faces of people I meet. But more importantly, it sparked my fascination with stories and their characters. Whether it was the animated family member embellishing the story or the almost mythological ancestor that they spoke about, I would be mesmerized.
My fascination with people and how they work continued in my undergraduate years in the form of a Psychology major and in graduate school with an M.Ed. in Secondary Education – Social Studies. I was not a teacher who loved history; I was a teacher that loved studying people. It just so happened that those people lived in different time periods or cultures. As a teacher, I loved using first person accounts, art, and music to help connect students with these stories.
Art: Like Derek in Grounded for Good, I didn’t have much exposure to the arts growing up. To be honest, I avoided it like the plague because I had convinced myself, “I’m not creative.” I always loved taking pictures, but there was no time for photography classes in high school or college. In my twenties, I bought myself a camera and started taking darkroom classes at the New Art Center in Newton (Massachusetts) where I was living.
Within a short time, I began working at the art center and had unlimited access to the darkroom and various other classes such as ceramics, dance, and painting. As uncomfortable as it sometimes was, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. In one particular class, I remember asking the painting teacher, “Is this right?” Her response was totally unsatisfying to me at the time. “You’re the artist. You decide.” It challenged and empowered me in a new, scary, yet exciting way. Many times during the writing of this story, her voice echoed in my head.
Flow Circus: Today, I am able to combine my love of stories, psychology, arts, and learning to develop programs that get kids and adults up from their seats and out of their comfort zones. As Chief Education Officer of Flow Circus, I help people develop new skills, find new interests, and learn how they learn.
With writing fiction, I want to share the story of so many of the jugglers that we work with and how learning this new skill has impacted them. I hope Derek’s journey of self-discovery is entertaining and maybe even a little inspiring.