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"Iím there to support them in giving birth in some way. It's like being a midwife, you know. And very much about listening."
Joel Metzger is the founder of the Online Noetic Network (ONN), which offers free email articles on living consciously.
The Online Noetic Network can be visited at wisdomtalk.org (site will open in new window).
Joel Metzger, "Yearning
for Expression: Interviewing Karen Schlick"
When I was in Nova Scotia, one of the people I was fortunate enough to be able to talk to was artist and teacher Karen Schlick. Karen is an art teacher in a public high school. Here she talks about what she truly teaches, self-expression. She tries to impart to the students the importance and process of expressing the deepest parts of oneself, much more than teach art technique. - Joel
ONN Joel: Please tell me about your teaching.
Karen Schlick: Well, I teach art to Junior High students -- that's adolescents, teenagers. I would say that my style of teaching is probably [not] at all typical. I don't focus so much on the product as on the process. What Iím really trying to do is to give my students a little glimpse of what it is to be an artist.
ONN Joel: So you succeed in bringing out that part of themselves?
Karen Schlick: Yes. That inside part they don't know is there when they start out. I'll start them with sketchbooks and tell them everybody has their own way of drawing -- that it's completely individual. Then I'll work gradually on getting them discover how it is that they draw, and the kinds of things that are meaningful to them. I'll teach them how to use chalk, pastels, oil pastels, ink -- any number of different things. But eventually we'll do some kind of mixed media project that might use their dreams or memories or different emotions they have... I'm completely open. In other words, if I sense that a student is going at a right angle to the direction I'm going in, I just watch what they're doing. Iím there to support them in giving birth in some way. It's like being a midwife, you know. And very much about listening.
ONN Joel: Does your focus influence them in what they look for inside themselves? I can imagine a teacher saying, "Oh, when I paint, I express that this way." So the kids look and start doing that process.
Karen Schlick: Yes, that's why I don't bring in my work right away, because they're always looking for the right answer, so you have to be very careful. I'm always saying, "Don't do this piece of work for me. You know you have to make the decisions here. I can't tell you that it should be red in this corner or blue over here. You have to look and you have to decide."
ONN Joel: When I was in school I would have loved that. I did not find enough of it. Do many children yearn for that?
Karen Schlick: I would say that every being ultimately yearns for that.
ONN Joel: For expression?
Karen Schlick: Yeah. For true expression. It's my personal belief that that we all have that capacity to express from the deepest part of ourselves -- but instead a lot of things happen. People get shamed, they get frightened, they get told that there are certain ways to do things and you don't color outside the lines.
I remember doing one project with the kids that I call exploding heads. They took a piece of paper and did some sort of a face. Then they fragmented it -- blew it apart and inside between all the pieces they put the symbols for the things that were significant to them.
There was this one kid who had glued all the pieces on, and then for some reason he wasn't happy with it. We started working with oil pastels -- with red and black -- and he ended up really getting into it using just these two pastels.
His piece ended up being just black shapes with the red in between. The other kids in the class were saying, "Oh my God! Chris is not getting it. He's not doing it right." And I said, "Look. Leave him alone. He knows exactly what he's doing." They were all flabbergasted and never did really understand that what he was doing was fine. But he understood it. He understood that I thought what he was doing was fine.
You can feel when someone gets a channel. Like there's an energy that starts to happen, and they get really focused and just start to go with it. When that happens, you don't have to do anything. The best thing is to just get out of the way.
ONN Joel: They're on their own path.
Karen Schlick: Yeah! They're doing their own thing. So my goal is to take the obstacles out of the way as much as I can. All of my teaching has been to find ways to remove the obstacles.
ONN Joel: I would think this would be important no matter what work path they follow in their lives.
Karen Schlick: Oh, absolutely! Because it's learning how to touch into some essential part of themselves and how to take risks. The thing is, there are a lot of risks. I try to teach them that you often don't know how a piece is going to turn out. Not to think that just because they've got an idea in their heads at the beginning, it's going to be like that in the end. Maybe it will be, but you have to allow for the fact that, very likely, it won't be. The process is constantly evolving, and you're looking at it saying, "Now what? Now what? Now what?"