The past few months have been great. Things have been moving at a slower pace, allowing me to be more reflective about my actions. Stressors that once existed in Auckland no longer apply - I can take my time, avoid rushing, and still have energy left at the end of the day. Now, I have the opportunity to think about the kind of person I want to be.
When I left university, I felt desperate to do something meaningful with my life. I had spent four years at art school developing a practice, only to realise it wasn’t what I wanted. I needed something to identify with. My idea of a meaningful life was outward-facing, where I sought something to help those around me. Teaching seemed like a logical choice, especially after gaining some experience while in university under my mentor’s guidance.
Teaching went well for a while. I felt that my life had real purpose and a defined practice. I had these young people to help, and we worked together to achieve their goals. It was incredibly rewarding because we celebrated every success, no matter how big or small.
It is only since leaving teaching that I’ve realised a meaningful life should always start with the individual. Teaching was good to me, but it was a mistake to place so much personal value and worth into what is ultimately just a job. I had a glimpse of this when I first met my wife, but it has become clearer in recent months. What matters most are the people who mean a lot to me, my family, my friends, my ancestry - these are significant aspects contributing to a meaningful life. They are what will last even after everything and everyone else has left.
I might have mentioned this in a previous blog post, but that same mentor once told me, “You come into this world with nothing, and after no time at all, you leave it with nothing but the connections you made along the way.” To me, it emphasises the importance of finding your people and how temporary everything else is. In the end, none of that other stuff really matters.
I’m not exactly sure why I decided to write a post like this. If I look at the analytics for this site, there are still a decent number of people who visit and go through different pages (300-400 visitors a week), so I assume that some of those people would also be reading these posts. But I can imagine someone like my past self from a few years ago, struggling through life, trying everything to find some meaning and purpose. If I could speak to that past version of myself now, I would tell them to stop getting stuck on things that don’t matter. Instead, I would suggest looking to family and friends, but also to their birthplace (Japan, in my case), and learn more about its culture and mythology.
I would tell myself, “Stop treating your life as an island - you will feel much better for it.”
Myself and a few others who are new to our company were given a tour of some significant sites around Wellington/Pōneke recently.
I had just arrived back from catching up with family, friends and students in Auckland, so was feeling quite run down prior to the trip. I knew that we would be out walking most of the day, so was a bit apprehensive about going.
Before we left, we were given a brief lecture on the history of Wellington and how it came into being. From the early arrival of Māori to the history of The New Zealand Land Company, it gave us much greater context around the establishment of the city we work in. Many of the streets I work near are named after the original directors of The New Zealand Land Company (such as Willis Street, Lambton Quay, and so on).
After the lecture we went on a bus tour around a few different sites. We visited the Cable Car Museum, Space Place, Karori Cemetery, and finally Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush. The latter was probably my favourite place, where we were given a tour of their plant nursery which housed rare species of native orchids and celmisia. It was incredible see that such a beautiful sanctuary for native flora and fauna exists so close to the city.
All in all I was really thankful for the opportunity, and was glad to have gone on the trip.
Since I first created this website, I have tried to be more aware of the issues around web accessibility (a11y). When I tried using NVDA on my old website, I was horrified and embarrassed by the experience. I used to think that alt text on images basically covered all that you needed to worry about for web a11y, but it wasn’t until I began actively testing with a variety of different tools that I found there is much more to it than this.
On this website, I have identified several issues that hurt accessibility. For the most part, the issues aren’t technical and are related to the language on my project pages. Most of the writing on these pages don’t follow plain English, are very long, and will have many repetitive statements or redundant words/phrases such as “more complex.”
For someone with English as their second language, it immediately limits what they can get from any of my content. For those using screen readers like NVDA or JAWS, it takes forever to read through verbose paragraphs that others might be able to skim through. This might not be avoidable for certain topics or pages that require the use of specialist language or prior technical knowledge, but at a baseline level most web writing guidelines suggest the use of clear, simple sentences that can be skimmed.
I have always struggled to write concisely. If I take my time and proof-read this isn’t an issue, but it is something that needs ongoing work. I am thankful for tools like Hemingway and Grammarly that automates a lot of this process (beyond a simple spelling and grammar check).
All content on this website is currently undergoing an audit and will be periodically updated to better reflect plain English standards. In some cases, I will be archiving older content that is no longer relevant and will be too cumbersome to update onto a separate website.
I’m excited about the continual improvements I can make to this website so that more people can enjoy it and look forward to learning along the way!
Note: Surnames have been left out to maintain the privacy of the individuals mentioned below
Several months ago now, I taught my last class and resigned from teaching after having done it for the past three years.
It really wasn’t an easy decision to make. I was leaving part-way through the year, right when I had establised a rapport with a new set of students and built even stronger connections with existing students. The Te Wāhi maker space that I was involved in was doing well, with many coming to the weekly Innovation Workshop I co-hosted. My confidence in the classroom was at its highest, having finally found my stride and style that I enjoyed using to help students with their work.
So, why leave?
There were a few key reasons. The main reason being my wife getting a collections/archives related job in Wellington, one that she has always dreamed of. There wasn’t an equivalent in Auckland, so we would have to relocate no matter what. The logical thing for me would have been to find another teaching role here in Wellington - after all, there is a national shortage of teachers even now and (provided you are capable) one can pick up a full-time or relief role relatively easily. I would start again at another school, and that would be that.
But I realised this wasn’t possible for me. I had given so much to my previous school because I believed in its staff and students very deeply, and felt truly invested in what was going on. Many of these students, some of whom I had been teaching since they were 14 years old, were now growing into young adults realising their dreams. In the three years I have been teaching, I have worked with close to 1000 different kids (likely a bit over if I counted up). I knew I couldn’t come close to that level of energy at a new school (or, it would take a very long time).
With moving to a new place, I thought - why not have a completely fresh start? Try something different, and begin picking back up the things that I had to shelf for the past few years that I have been teaching. I had neglected many parts of my own life, namely my friends and family, in constant pursuit of this job which wasn’t healthy. Doing something more black and white could help me leave work at the door when I come home everyday.
I am in a completely new job and field now (IT related), but I still think being a teacher in the classroom is one of the most rewarding things ever. It is a shame that the state of education and teaching in this country is as dire as is it, because on the job you have inclinations of what it could truly be. No other profession has made me laugh, shout and cry as much as teaching. It really gives you a sense of what is meant by the human condition (as cliche as that sounds), and just how much education can help shift social class barriers.
I will miss the team that I worked with dearly - Robin, Francis, Andre, Linda, Sandra, Tina, Sam and Motu. They are some of the most hardworking, funny, and talented people I have ever met. Others such as Shar, Joe and Jill were instrumental in me finding my feet when I first started teaching, to whom I am forever grateful.
Most of all, I will miss all of the students that I have been lucky enough to work with over the years - Bo, Isobel, Scarlett, Matthew, Eleanor, Stanley, George, Hidetomo, Taiji, Anne-Marie, Gabriella, Isaac, Violet, Lucas, Oscar, Sofie, Nathan, Sam, Aliza, Zara, Reese, Ruby, Amber, Sylvia, Christina, Hamish, Freddie, Olivia, Finn, Molly, Andrei, Seungjin, Ben, Aedan, Will, Noah, Callum, Jude et al. Thank you.
Bending towards the sun,
As an art teacher, I have seen firsthand the incredible impact that artificial intelligence (AI) has had on the world of art making. From the way that we create and share our work, to the very techniques and materials we use, AI has transformed the art world in ways that were once unimaginable.
One of the most significant ways that AI has impacted art making is through the development of new tools and technologies such as OpenAI’s DALL E 2 (which I wrote about briefly a few months back when their first research paper was published) and Stable Diffusion by Stability AI. With the help of AI, artists can now create digital works of art that would have been impossible to create just a few years ago. For example, AI-powered software can generate complex, detailed images and animations, or even create entire music tracks from scratch.
But it’s not just the tools that have changed – AI has also had a major impact on the way that artists approach their work. Many artists are now using AI to generate new ideas and inspiration for their art, and to experiment with new techniques and styles. This has opened up a whole new world of creative possibilities for artists, and has allowed them to push the boundaries of what was once thought possible in the world of art.
Understandably, there are also those who worry about the impact of AI on the art world. Some fear that as AI becomes more advanced, it will replace the need for human artists, or that it will somehow dilute the value of traditional art forms. There is also the concern of copyright - many of these training models have used artist works without their permission, and are thus making derivatives without attribution. It means that artists, particularly smaller independent creators, are having to reckon with platforms that can generate works in their style which potentially leads to lost commissions and income.
One only needs to look at the recent and ongoing protest at Artstation where artists have begun fighting back against technology companies using their IP without their permission. In the case of this protest, artists are also up in arms about the prevalence of “AI art” on the site. As noted by character artist Dan Eder, to place an image generated using a tool like DALL E that was simply generated using a prompt “alongside artwork that took hundreds of hours and years of experience to make is beyond disrespectful.” Artists have provided free labour for technology companies to train and improve their models which, in the case of an entity such as OpenAI or Midjourney, is then sold as a SaaS product back to consumers.
The impact of AI on art making will depend on how we choose to use it. At least in the case of Stability AI, they have begun addressing the IP and ethics concerns by allowing Artstation artists to opt-out of being using to train future releases of Stable Diffusion which is positive. For artists, there is an opportunity to embrace this technology and use it to push the boundaries of what is possible. It makes for a great starting point, but is still a long way off from completely replacing the creative agency that comes from a real living, breathing artist.
Scattering seeds in the wind,
Spending this week in isolation due to being classified as a household contact.
It has been a strange time. On the one hand it has been peaceful being able to work from home and avoid the mad rush of teaching physically. On the other hand, things that would normally take a single step (or no steps at all) are now three, and you find youself having to constantly work around issues rather than being able to really solve them.
Seeing your loved ones get Covid is also not fun at all. Not being able to do anything about it is even worse.
Here’s to hoping that next week goes better.
It’s been a long year.
While it has not been an easy one, there have been some fantastic things in 2021 that I am grateful for. I have met some wonderful new friends, colleagues, and students, and have enjoyed many laughs with them all.
I am especially thankful for my students. They showed great patience with me and expressed great energy and determination even in the short time we were in the classroom. These students are truly kids of the Covid-era, having now been through successive lockdowns and their associated uncertainties for the last two years. And while it has been a great challenge for them, they have also achieved some tremendous things.
There are many names I wish to celebrate, particularly those who did not receive traditional academic awards at school but have held a quiet strength and achieved many milestones behind the scenes. I will not publish them out of respect for privacy and my professional responsibility, but I am so proud of them. It makes me understand why some teachers stay in the profession for decades - this part of the job is so incredibly rewarding and fun.
I feel for students less fortunate, particularly those in lower decile schools and areas who have been hit particularly hard this year. There is a lot of work being done by fantastic people behind the scenes here, but they have been stretched so thin from this. I want to create and share more resources for other teachers and students in the coming year, something people can grab and use for their contexts.
Let’s pull back the veil,
This is just going to be a short post so I don’t overthink it. I would like to follow up another time though and go over the highlights of this year.
I am very glad and thankful that this year is coming to a close. The sun is shining outside and people around me are happy, which is what matters most.
Take care and see you soon.
Been many months since I had time and space in my mind to be able to write anything.
Since my last post Sophie and I did a big move out of our old place and into a smaller apartment in central Auckland. It was a very stressful experience and, despite our limited posessions, made me realise just how much stuff one accumulates over the course of even a year (the total length we were at our last place).
Work has been rewarding but challenging. I wake up early every morning, at work from 7am usually until about 4pm, sometimes staying as late as 6pm some days. I occassionally will see what people of the Merveilles community will be working on and wonder how they manage to find the time to balance work, life, and their own creative pursuits. It still brings me great joy nevertheless seeing what they get up to, as well as what some of my students manage to make over the school terms.
One aspect of work that I have been enjoying a lot has been helping to set up the school makerspace, Te Wāhi Auaha. Myself and another colleague have been working a few evenings a week (and during the day whenever possible) to set this space up, creating tutorials for students to follow, making partial exemplars to demonstrate the capabilities of different machines and so on. It has been great fun - the space has only just started to take shape and there is still much to be done.
It is now the end of term holidays. I intend on using this time to get back into the swing of things creative, as well as get back into my programming practice.
Though the links are subtle,
Recently I have been working more on my own design work. While I have always had a basic understanding of using design tools such as Inkscape, Figma etc, I have never really had the time to push myself to learn more until now.
Using the Nothing Market moniker, which has been the name that I have traded as for the past year, I have been generating different designs to improve my skills. I am hoping that by doing this it will mean that I am able to teach more to my students, beyond the core requirements of what is expected from them.
This is what I have done over this past week, producing at least one outcome every single day. Some are more successful than others, but it doesn’t really bother me too much. For me, the most valuable thing from all this has been getting faster and better at the process of using these tools.
Back to making!
A tulip for your thoughts,