Artist Residency at Ecole Margaret Underhill

On my way to Ecole Margaret Underhill for the very first day of my very first artist residency, I had to stop at a railroad crossing for what seemed like FOREVER.

A very, very, VERY long train was making its way down the tracks. Oh, man! I was hoping I wouldn’t be late. That wouldn’t make for a good impression…

…But just in time, the caboose passed out of view and the crossing was clear. I arrived at the school in time (even early), and everything from that point on for the rest of the entire week was smooth sailing. Of course, things went so well not because of luck, but because of the AMAZING students and staff I worked with at this fantastic school! I want to tell you a bit about it…

I had the pleasure of meeting about 90+ or so marvelous grade 3 and 4 students. In each class, I received the warmest welcome you could imagine – and, as a writer, I’m in the business of imagining! 🙂 In anticipation of my visit, students had been working on creating original, fictional characters – even a few of the teachers did the same! There were galleries of fictional characters – humorous, heroic, bold, complex – often with colorful portraits to match, ready and waiting for creative exploration. As I got to know the students – and their characters – I knew we would be in for a fun week of imagining.

What impressed me most about these students was their eagerness to learn, explore and build on a love for reading and writing that was already there. Students showed a tremendous amount of respect in listening to me and to others, and they were also incredibly enthusiastic to get started on an activity – the perfect combo! Whether we worked in large groups, small groups, in partners or alone, students got right to work – and came up with the most amazing ideas. We also had lots of fun and learned a lot from each other through group discussions (chatting with these students was the highlight of my day!). I felt I got to know students quite well through the insightful questions they asked and the intriguing stories they told. I’m so glad that I get to come back to do more work in March. I am TOTALLY EXCITED to see what these creative students have been working on, and to see my “old friends” again. It will be like “coming home again!”.

Yes – I truly felt at home at Ecole Margaret Underhill. Students made me feel so special by always greeting me in the hall, getting me up to speed on the latest recess news, and of course filling me in on their ever-expanding writing projects. On day one, staff invited me to grab a bowl and a spoon and join in a special chilli lunch (a spicy fundraising event!), and always cleared a spot for me at the lunch table. The teachers I worked with were kind, welcoming, had AWESOME ideas, and helped make the activities I had planned a success. THANK YOU!

I also appreciated how each school day began with a commitment to respect, peace and excellence that everyone recited together (I need to get a copy of the words for myself!). I think the world would be a better place if we all started our day focusing our thoughts and minds in such a way. Way to go!

This was my very first Artists in the Schools residency and I could not have asked for a more welcoming and reception and enjoyed a genuinely creative, fun-filled experience. Thank you Ecole Margaret Underhill – see you in March 2013! (Can’t wait!)