Victory Over Death 2 – Colin McCahon

Blogging Legend: Week 1

3. Write a blog post about your favourite movie/song/piece of art including how it relates to your life as an educator.

As an artist, musician, and movie lover, this challenge is a hard one. Having studied Art at tertiary level for three and a half years, and Art History for three, I owe it to myself to reflect on an artwork and explain how it relates to my life as an educator.

The issue for me is finding my favourite. I have so many! Even choosing a favourite artist, I’m torn between McCahon and Hotere, J.M.W. Turner and Constable, not to mention Duchamp, Mondrian, and Pollock.

So I’ve stayed close to home and gone with my first love; Colin McCahon. Now just to select one artwork from his ourve. Where do I even start!?

Elias series? Otago Peninsula 1946? Urewera Mural?

For me though, there is one expanse of a canvas that eclipses all of the rest.

Victory Over Death 2 – 1970

Victory Over Death 2 is a massive painting, over two metres in height, and five in length. White text scrawled across the blackened background. The words “I AM” dwarf anyone and everyone viewing the piece.

Having stood in front of this monumental artwork myself, watching other paintings shrink into postage stamps, it leaves an impression on you; speaking a little deeper to some than others. The pixels on the screen in front of you now certainly don’t do it justice.

Regardless, it links into how I view myself as a teacher. In particular, a male, primary school teacher.

I can not escape the fact that in 2000 while on the lake shore of Lake Rotoiti, I heard my calling to be a primary school teacher, at a time when, as a sixth former, spending any longer in school than I had to was pure madness. Yet there it was – as clear as the shimmering lake was infront of me, the desire in my heart to become a teacher.

You see, Victory Over Death 2 quotes a series of verses from various translations of Scripture. Regardless of my personal faith, they encapsulate my role in education at this time.

The crowd standing by said it was thunder, while others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ Jesus replied, ‘This voice spoke for your sake, not mine.’ – John 12:29, 30;

Quite clearly, as I’ve said, this is almost the Lake Rotoiti experience in a nutshell, just a non-audible voice…if that makes sense?

‘Now my soul is in turmoil and what have I to say? Father, save me from this hour. No, it was for this that I came to this hour’ – John 12:27

Since beginning my teaching career 6 years ago, many things have changed for me. Most of all, I’ve been fighting with depression since 2012. It takes a lot of energy to get to work each day, and while the kids drive me madder, somehow, they also keep me going.

The light is among you still, but not for long. Go on your way while you have the light, so that darkness may not overtake you. He who journeys in the dark does not know where he is going. – John 12: 35

It is a well known fact nowadays that there are fewer and fewer male role models out there for kids growing up. Divorce and separation statistics continue to grow, and whether it’s because they’re trying to hold down two jobs, or doing night shifts, or they’ve moved away or even been locked away, the male influence for kids is limited, and for some, non existent.

For me, that keeps me going. I am that light in the darkness for these kids – especially the boys. Because besides me, they may have no other male role models in their life. This is summed up by the next verse on the artwork:

While you have the light, trust to the light, that you may become men of light. – John 12: 36

I am a teacher. I am a light. I am meant to be here. I am here for those kids. I AM.

I AM

Hopefully that sheds some light on why I became a teacher, why I still am a teacher, and why I try my best day in and day out for the kids. Its why I work in the school I’m in, despite numerous professionals encouraging me to get out and ‘spread my wings’.

It’s partly for their education. It’s partly for the financial security (that doesn’t always come by being an artist!). But mostly it’s to make a difference. It’s mostly to be the light in the darkness and to show the kids that they write their own futures, and that they can make of it whatever they want if they apply themselves. It’s to bring them hope. Belief in themselves. A backbone and a spine. It’s to engage them. Inspire them. And then Unleash them. And thus, my teaching motto is born, and this blog and its articles are the extension of that into the online community.

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