“embrace failure and take risks”


Dear Future Educator,

I have not seen my students in nearly two weeks. For the longest time, procrastination had a strong hold on me. For whatever reason I couldn’t sit down to write this letter. I think I felt so immersed in the process that reflection didn’t seem possible yet. Then this crazy thing happened . . . globally. So now I have been forced into a space where I am having to reflect from a fully removed position separate from teaching, my students, my collaborator, and from my peers in the cohort.


All year my partner and I focused on Power, Love and (I think most importantly) Connection. It is so bizarre that COVID-19 has put us in a place where we are extremely isolated and connection feels impossible. I wish I would have had this knowledge or foresight when I began this project. I would’ve been much quicker to realize that I had to forego control and let this project breathe and grow how it wanted to. I frequently felt like I was behind, not doing enough, or missing the mark. As things started unfolding and word was passing around that schools may close I found myself thinking, “First the strike and now this?” I felt frustrated that so many outside obstacles were throwing a wrench into this work that we were all so invested in and excited by. The last day of student attendance felt surreal. There was a lot of uncertainty and kids seemed scared. I was sitting in a room of about 40 kids and the 7th grade team, listening to their initial remote learning plan and words of encouragement for the kids when it just hit me that we had been preparing them for this all year.

In one moment, with one event, we were confronted with our themes – Power, Love, and Connection – and utilizing what we learned outside of the classroom in a real life application. All at once, there was a massive power shift and a complete removal of connection. I told my students that we have a very real opportunity to navigate these fears and this uncertainty by maintaining a love for learning and a commitment to staying connected with each other, with our friends, and with our families. In a lot of ways this project came to an abrupt end leaving things half sewn, untouched, and undiscovered. But, in so many other ways everything we have been thinking about and working towards has been validated and pushed in a new direction. In creating and understanding this “new normal”, we are discovering the necessity of the work we have been doing all year. I am feeling now like our work truly went beyond the classroom and became socially engaged art in the most important way.


This project has given me some of my most favorite teaching moments. There is nothing like starting a Friday with music, tea, collaboration, and a class where every single student is engaged for the entire hour. It was clear that we were doing something right when it was next to impossible to get students to stop work and start cleaning up. I was so proud to see students who previously wouldn’t work or felt like they were “bad” at art embrace failure and take risks in making. The freedom in art making allowed me to spend my time guiding my students through their ideas (giving them the power) and getting to know them on an individual level. I loved that I was able to establish my own connections and work through themes with my students, instead of at them. Letting them guide the entirety of the project was liberating. This entire process has helped me to really understand why I love teaching and hone in on what is really important in my teaching practice. Even through moments of frustration I have never felt so inspired, invigorated, or purposeful. This was as much a creative exploration for me as it was for my students . . . a prototype in teaching. It is so clear now that this project has no end and I should never have been looking for one. In terms of physical making we already have so much planned for next year, but more importantly the change in my practice will be a continual evolution. For the longest time I felt that there was a huge divide in my personal art practice and my teaching practice. I only now realize and understand that part of my art practice IS my teaching practice. That realization has given me a lot of power and confidence and I am feeling a lot of pride in the work that we did.

I am so excited to see how the project develops from here. Themes may shift and materials may differ but I know that the work we will do will feel just as important. We have some great opportunities to make some public art next year and I can’t wait to see how the students step up to that challenge. I am so lucky to have been a part of this process, to have such a smart and thoughtful teaching partner, and to have students that are so creative and cool. Our goal was always to make a mess, fail productively, and spark a change, and I think in those ways this project saw a lot of success.

—Nikki (+ Frank)

Power concept mapping.


Establish rituals in the classroom that foreground self-care and empathy, tending to the humanity of students before any goals or outcomes. Start a Friday with music and tea. Small acts of hospitality go a long way.

Nikki Woloshyn (& Frank Kadri)

Prussing Elementary

Nikki Woloshyn is the Visual Arts teacher for grades K-8 at Prussing Elementary School. She has been teaching for 5 years and aims to focus her teaching practice around contemporary issues, mixed media exploration, and collaboration. Nikki is an avid house plant collector both at home and in her classroom.

Frank Kadri is a 7th grade ELA Teacher at Prussing Elementary in Jefferson Park. Frank is going to be a 7th year teacher, loves his job, and Jeni's Ice Cream.