It’s Okay To Get Messy

By: Anne Fernald, Ph.D.
Professor of English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Special Advisor to the Provost for Faculty Development

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a teacher. Nor can I remember a time when I didn’t watch teachers and leaders, wondering why they asked us to do this activity, not that one, why they seated us in a circle rather than rows. Figuring out the reason behind the lesson has assuaged my boredom in many a dull class. It’s also fired me up about talking with teachers about how to make education better.

When I was five, my mom took me down to the little art school at the end of the block for Saturday art classes. I got to wear my Osh Kosh overalls and it was ok to get messy. My teacher, Miss Cook, was beautiful, with a long red ponytail. When there was an exhibition at the end of the semester for all the students—my little school was also a very small art college—the children’s art hung in the front room of the gallery. My dinosaur was on the wall, but it was upside down! Miss Cook just smiled and said, “That’s ok honey. It’s so beautiful, it looks just as good this way.” And even though part of me knew that was a fib, I could feel her kindness down to my soul.

This project combines that fire for making teaching better, messiness, and kindness in ways that portend so much joy, so much promise for the right kind of change, how could I not throw myself into it?