Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 12, 2011

Lifelines: Thinking creatively again

By Terry Wooten

Betty Beeby, 88, From "A Book of Hours"

In Art class I found the teacher I needed.

Mary Davis would come back after school

and work with us.

She had all these expensive art books

she loaned us.

The cost was out of her own pocket.

"Arts, they're the ones that get the ax when times get tough. But that's when the arts and activities that surround them are more important than ever."-- Helen Milliken

Public schools are back in session and under attack. An important value of school is too often overlooked.

One of the first memories I have of my parents is of them arguing and my father storming out the door. I followed crying. Mom was yelling at me to get back in the house. I was four, and grabbed dad's leg and begged him to come back in. He did.

There were a lot of very good times in my family, too. We tend to remember the best, and unfortunately the worst.

When I was in junior high school, one midnight my mother fled the house, and hid at my aunt's and uncle's. She called and told me where she was around 1 a.m.

I didn't get much sleep that night. Going to school the next morning was a huge relief from the emotional turmoil at home. I'm glad there wasn't a standardized test that day. I wouldn't have scored very well.

Not all kids who attend public schools are full of anxiety and stress like I was that sad morning. Still, many children carry a lot of extra emotional baggage during these hard times. There's a lot more to public education than taking tests. I know because I've taken my art to schools for 28 years.

If politicians would follow me around, they'd observe the miracle that takes place. I've visited classrooms that feel like sacred ground. Students start out with the ABC's and end up with Shakespeare.

The architects of "No Child Left Behind" have no clue about kids like me, or the ones who wrote the following poems. Maybe they don't care, which is even scarier. Now public school budgets are being slashed, and a teacher's worth is being belittled.

For the three kids who wrote these poems, and thousands like them, public schools are a refuge. Kids are not a number. Kids are not a statistic. They're not a test score. Children are young, developing human beings as different as snowflakes. Teachers are trying to educate them the best they possibly can. Art helps.

I can look back at my school days and count a number of teachers who helped rescue me. The one that shines the brightest was my high school Language Arts teacher. She taught me to write my own way. She approached teaching from an angle that might not be possible today.

Writing taught me to think outside of the box. Schools are being forced to teach students to fill in the box. It's time to start thinking more creatively again.

This summer

I lost both of my parents.

Now I have foster parents.


Last year,

I worried all the time.

Were they in jail?

Could I have visits with them?

Had bad grades

from the worrying.


This year

my parents can't see me.

Not worrying about them

no more.

Better grades now.

Better life too.

— Donovan 


It was my old house.

I was little.

My mom was gone.

Dad was standing there.

He started to dance

to the music on the radio.

He was wearing everyday clothes.

Nothing fancy.

Staring at me he started to dance

like a jolly green giant playfully.

I was five.


Now I'm thirteen.

Dad got out of prison.

He's in Detroit,

and I'm four and a half hours away.

— Kailey 


My mom got in a fight.

I was scared.

Hid under the porch

like a turtle in his shell.


Seemed like hours,

then mom's boyfriend left.


I had fallen asleep.

Next morning mom couldn't find me.

She was looking

for me like a baby looking

for candy.


I woke up.

Mom was gone.

She came back crying.


Found me.

Hugs, hugs, hugs.

She thought I was gone.




— Kenny