By Jonathan Milne
My father (pictured above towards the end of his career) was a plasterer and his goal was that none of his four boys should follow in his footsteps. Two of them gravitated to farming (exactly what my father had escaped to become a plasterer). One became a hired gun for the Department of Conservation (he was paid to hunt deer and other animals that were wrecking forests). I went to art school because all the other school subjects were incredibly boring, apart from the essay writing in English classes.
By accident, I was invited to teach at Hokio Beach School during a term break. It was a social welfare institution and an amazing experience. Officially, I was teaching art, although the main concerns were to get through the day without any damage to the kids (aged between 10 and 15) and the property. I found myself with freedom to do what I thought was right inside a junior jail.
I had the luxury of being able to send trouble makers back to their regular classrooms. This only happened once, to a boy who smashed someone else’s work.
It was the first glimmer of what we do today at TLC, and maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that we are deeply engaged with students who are studying from prison.
Nothing in my education had prepared me for Hokio. For some reason, I was trusted to invent my own programme and it worked. Thanks boys – we all shared a dislike for regular classrooms.
Image: woodcut from my Hokio class
Hokio seeded a very positive attitude to teaching, although the real opportunity didn’t happen for more than 20 years.
The point is that your real career may still be lurking within your current experience. This is partly why we begin the TLC Creativity Certificate with a reflective exploration into what works best for each student. Your career might be in plain sight, although you have never thought of it as a life-shaping possibility.
There are thousands upon thousands of students who could benefit from what we’re doing at TLC. The key to life is to find something worth living for. The catch is that real commitment is required. It’s similar to the dedication of young musicians and all of the other people who keep exploring and practising until they are really good.
It doesn’t have to be grand. There’s a good chance that your real career may start with something mundane, like helping a child to read, or assisting elderly neighbours look after their garden.
In most cases, it’s best to start small. If you fret too much about a ‘career’, it can suck the joy out of the experience. For example, I had a successful stint designing and selling posters (during the days when people were excited about such things). It gradually turned into a business and that stifled the creativity.
For me, teaching and education have become steadily more inspiring, despite government departments dedicated to drowning us in regulations.
Somehow you need to find a way to keep your light shining no matter what happens. It isn’t easy, but it works. I’m now confident that most people are capable of reinventing themselves and doing something meaningful for their community and their bank account. We can all discover how to prosper when we find our creativity.
How to find a career you love - Erica Sosna.