I was 9 nine years old, in a new school, over 1600 kilometres from where I was born and it was raining. It was summer. It was always raining. And with that rain came the mesmerising effect that it has always had on my mind as it randomly ran down my classroom window. I was a dreamer. I still am. As a dreamer, I’ve always found it hard to focus, to concentrate, to engage and to stay on track.
I had a new teacher too. Mr Watkins. I was apprehensive. I didn’t know what to expect.
He was young; probably no more that 25, with blonde curly hair and and a loud button up ‘Hawaiian’ shirt and baggy knee length shorts. He was definitely not a conformist. There was even an air of defiance about him. But above all of this, he was a creative! He was awesome! Everything we did in class involved an element of creativity. It was something I had not experienced before. And now, as I look back on my experience with Mr Watkins with the hindsight of over 20 years in education myself, Mr Watkins was doing the very things we are still trying to struggle to do today. He got it! And this was 1977!
Mr Watkins encouraged us to be creative. To think of new and different ways of doing things. I loved being in his class because as my own creativity was growing I was able to link so much of my learning through my creativity. He wanted us to be bold, he wanted us to think outside the square, he wanted us to question, to look at things differently. To seize the day. To make our lives extraordinary. He was instilling in us the phrase Carpe diem long before Dead Poets Society. Mr Watkins was my O Captain, my Captain.
Whilst I had been always keen on art, drawing and performing, this is where my love of art in all its forms truly began. Mr Watkins fostered my love for art, my passion to perform and it was always with the goal of improving me as an individual. I felt as though he wanted to help me become someone who could use their talents in meaningful ways and not just in ‘art’. I didn’t realise it then but now I know. Creativity is all around us. We are all different by design and by default creative. There is no one else like you or me. It is this creativity that drives the human race forward. Mr Watkins new this in spades.
To quote Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society: – We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.
Poetry, beauty, romance and love are all about the heart. True creativity comes from the heart. Its about feeling. When you feel, you know. You get the shivers. Mr Watkins gave me the shivers, because every time I walked into his classroom, I new it was going to be a great adventure.
Thank you, Mr Watkins. A thousand times, thank you.