Lesson still unknown as pandemic year schools us all


The title of the assignment was intentionally dumb: “How I Spent My Summer Vacation,” a holdover from the grade school writing projects many of us were assigned.

It was the first assignment in the fall semester of the advanced drawing class I taught for years as a university professor and it was always a success. It was a perfect introduction to the top drawing students in the school. Or an immediate indicator that a student had reached a level they were incapable of maintaining for 16 weeks.

I’ve reminisced about that project this summer and wondered what a wall of drawings might look like, were I still teaching.

Masks and ventilators? Street protests? Empty stadiums? Cabin fever in quarantine?

Believe or not, the project was very challenging. Every day, we do a hundred or more things that might become a memory. Any memory can become an image in the hands of someone who is creative.

Sifting through ideas is what all artists do. “Artists” includes inventors, lyricists, architects, and anyone else who has to make choices for a living.

If you were asked to sift through your 2020 summer and represent it with a drawing on a single piece of paper, what would it look like?

Generally, the drawings I looked at were scenes from a vacation, something like that. Rarely were they dark.

One young woman had the temerity to depict her breakup with a married man.

After I retired I was asked now and then to sub or make an appearance as a guest artist. And once I was asked if I would be interested in teaching an online drawing course.

It sounded like madness and I said so.

The intimacy of instruction in an art room is absolute, I thought: no exceptions.

Now look.

Almost everything we once considered normal is now something else, and that includes schools and schooling.

What if school buildings disappeared and all students were educated at home? Or not? Truancy would be easy as pie. Ferris Bueller could take off for months at a time.

I know someone who teaches at Overland High School. My best friend is a dean at the University of North Texas.

That’s as close as I am to what the school year might actually mean.

I hope to be around long enough to find out what the 2020 educational data that was collected and analyzed determined.

That’s something the National Center for Education Statistics will do.

Is it possible our children will be better educated at home or in environments outside of a typical classroom?

It seems very unlikely, doesn’t it?

Further, the absence of socialization might have a huge impact on, well, learning how to socialize, get along and coexist.

Have you ever wanted to flip a switch and see the future? Where’s Rod Serling?

My friend in Texas does not foresee higher education ever being the same again.

What else? Anyone who experienced depression before the pandemic isn’t likely to be singing show tunes right now.

Every day I ask myself, “What can I do?”

Realistically, this is about it. Along with journalists all over the country, I am trying my best to continue to provide crucial information to our readers.

Have you heard about that new corduroy pillow? It’s making headlines.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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