Artist and former university art teacher, Angela Miller, is seeking to rekindle the creative spirit and combat the mental impact of technology overload with her online art courses. Long recognised as a therapeutic medium for unlocking emotions and restoring balance, the creative process is known to trigger a range of happiness hormones that not only elevates mood, but can counteract the effects of stress and anxiety. Specifically, Ange wants to use art to help heal those experiencing what she has labelled ‘the education wound.’
“High school was a shock to me and I needed time away to recuperate my nervous system, which means I failed at attendance. I missed a lot of school and developed feelings of inadequacy. Much of the curriculum felt irrelevant and tedious. There was little scope for open-ended expression and exploration [and] I spent much of my high school years in a state of deficit.” Ange Miller
The Education Wound
Ange explains the concept of the education wound as the trauma caused by not fitting in at school, not simply in a social sense, but in the sense of constantly being assessed and judged against standards and measures that conflict with the sense of self.
“School felt like a completely impersonal external standard and measure was imposed onto (and conflicted with) … my inner world. I often felt like the “square-peg-in-a-round-hole”, and as a child, regularly felt ashamed and caught, without adequate resources to regulate my nervous system,” Ange explains. “I felt as though everyone else knew what to do and it was unacceptable for me not to know and I would be shamed if exposed, so I had to try my best to at least look like I was measuring up. I now know this as masking. It is confusing and exhausting.
Naturally strong in creative, right-brain function (creativity, multi-dimensional thinking, discerning symbols, patterns and relationships between things) Ange felt the experience of school was largely focused on developing and assessing left-brained function. “I felt boxed-in and measured. It seemed as though the development of the left-brained structure was at the expense of my inner realm, not in support of it,” she explains.
“Education hurts us. Education befuddles right-brain function, stripping us of creative autonomy and creative confidence.” Ange Miller
Feeling excluded and with a growing sense of inadequacy, Ange left high school believing there was no place for her. “There was the implication that there was something wrong with me and I was in trouble because I couldn’t keep up. I remember the career path advisory days… booths lining both walls of the school hall” but with no clear place where she felt she belonged.
Broadening the scope
Ange agrees that today, there is a greater awareness of learning styles in schools, but questions if it is enough. She believes that instead of penalising students who aren’t engaging the way they’re supposed to, that a broader look needs to be taken at the system as a whole.
“We know that the traditional system was built to create efficient industry workers. It is not easy to turn an enormous ocean liner 180 degrees and I imagine this is a similar situation. I know that non-attendance is at an all-time high in the state of NSW, so it is worth discussing how schools could become not only more relevant to a broader range of individuals, but also more effective in developing academic confidence through holistic creative applications,” Ange says.
While studying at university, Ange began to notice other students were suffering from the same lack of confidence that she had experienced at school, with the effect that they would hold themselves back in terms of their learning and experience. They too, had an education wound.
This was the motivation she needed to begin developing her program Art to Heal a Heart, which now includes more than 60 online classes in a variety of styles and mediums, all dedicated to authentic expression through art practice.
Less, not more for teachers
But how can we expect teachers to take on the responsibility to encourage students to take risks and not exclude themselves from opportunities outside their comfort zone when there is so much on the curriculum and teachers already have so much crammed into their day?
“Teachers have such a load! I think it’s about a change of angle. It’s about less, not more,” says Ange. “It’s about coming back to wholeness when everything has been fragmented and isolated. Finding efficient ways to combine tasks and include judgement-free opportunities for questioning, expressing and practising analysing.”
“Creativity is not a subject separate from everything, popping up in art and music and creative writing only. It is a foundational component of life, and systems that do not account for it are dishonouring the right brain modes and intelligence. Humans are suffering for lack of a whole-brained education.” Ange Miller
She fondly remembers the few teachers who ‘saw’ her as being the ones who gave her the opportunity to express her creativity, even when the subject may not have traditionally required subjective expression.
“To see and be seen, to know and be known. To be understood beyond the value measure of the system. What an incredible opportunity teachers have to impact unique individuals. Impactful in ways they’ll never know.”
Find out more about Ange Miller’s range of online courses here: ange miller (angemillerart.com)