Day 108 - Jessica (4th person I approached)
April 18, 2014 - Jessica was at the side of the road, doing something with her bicycle when I approached her. I started to speak and she said to me
"I know who you are. I saw your presentation at PechaKucha.” Jessica pulled her bike off the road, and we sat down on some steps and chatted for a while.
Jessica is a born and raised Vancouverite. She was born at St Paul’s hospital and grew up in east Vancouver. After graduating from high school, Jessica went to Emily Carr (College of Art & Design) and studied Media Arts.
“I graduated with a Bachelors degree in Media Arts, I took a year off,” Jessica said. “I spent that time teaching art in various Community Centres.”
After her “year off,” Jessica went to the University of British Columbia (UBC).
“They have a program that allowed me to get my teaching degree using the undergrad degree that I have from Emily Carr. It took me one year to get that second degree,” she said.
At this point in our conversation, a gentleman approached us and asked Jessica if he could take a photograph of her bike. Jessica’s bike is ‘yarn bombed.’ She has knitted a covering for her bike’s frame, pedals, seat, cables and the fenders. The gentleman wanted a picture of her bike as it related to a lecture he had been to, about software design and the user-experience.
“It's a great conversation starter,” Jessica said, laughing.
After the gent had left, Jessica told me,
“The thing is I didn’t do it to get attention,” referring to her bike.
“It’s about art for me. It’s a creative expression.” I asked Jessica how she got into the ‘Yarn Bombing’ as it’s called.
“One day I found a simple piece of yellow string on the sidewalk. I didn’t want to throw it away, so I tied it around the branch of a tree nearby. It represented so much to me, and I would see it as I walked by afterwards. I told some friends and they told me about yarn bombing and suggested I read a book about it,” Jessica said.
The book was by Leann Prain and Mandy Moore (*Fact Check - see links below). As it turns out, I have spoken with Mandy for The Stranger Project 2014 back on Day 58 - small world! From that simple piece of string Jessica tied on the tree branch, her interest in knitting, crochet and yarn bombing took off.
Jessica became a high school teacher in the public school system.
“It’s somewhat ironic that I went to private schools and now teach in the public school system. But it’s allowed me to use my own experience to really see the needs of each of my students. You have to plan, to be interested and be prepared. Teaching is a tough job, and there are days that are difficult. I teach classes of 30 students, and I teach five subjects. Over the course of two days, I see just over 200 kids. That’s a lot of individuals to pay attention to,” says Jessica. While her speciality subject is art, in Canada, teachers train to teach either elementary or high school.
“I teach Social Studies and I hadn’t done a socials class since I was in Grade 8. So there’s a lot of work that goes into just feeling prepared to teach a class.”
Jessica took another “year off,” to go to Boston University. There she did the academic studies for her Masters in Art Education.
“I had used my research and experience from teaching art and yarn bombing to kids, both girls and boys. Yes indeed, boys do knit! And I studied the effect and impact of art in classes and the impact on the individuals. I knitted all through university, and quite frankly, it saved me many a time. It’s therapeutic, relaxing and you get a true sense of accomplishment. There's a satisfaction from completing a piece,” Jessica says, with a passion in her voice.
The school board would only allow her one year off to complete her two year Masters program. She came back and completed her degree from Vancouver.
“It was intense, and a lot of work, but as of about three days ago, I am a Masters graduate from Boston University!” says Jessica, smiling. I told her I'm excited to be able to share this time with her!
It is clear to me that Jessica loves what she does, teaching and being an artist. (*Fact check - Jessica's website link is below). I could easily have spent much more time (and hope to do so!) talking with Jessica. She did tell me,
“I love what I do. Teaching is so satisfying. When I can see kids getting something. Making their way through a project and that sense of accomplishment, it’s amazing. There’s a class that I’ve taught at a downtown school. The Vancouver Police Department donate bike frames and the kids build their own bikes. Then they ride to school every day and get exercise, on a bike they’ve built! We have a planning class. It’s about how to do things. I’ve taught kids how to plan out their studies and courses. How to make budgets. I also have a journal in class that we use. Each student has their own, and it’s not marked, but they have to have it with them, and they have to write in it. It’s a form of self-evaluation. I prompt the lesson but they have gotten into the practise of writing about and reflecting upon what they are doing. Right now, we’re learning about mortgages. We get told that we should want to one day buy property, but no one ever teaches us how to do it. Or that prices can go down as well as up. And what happens then?” #notastranger
FootNote : As Jessica and I are getting ready to say our goodbyes, I see another familiar face. Jessica from Day 46 of The Stranger Project 2014 . I introduce the two Jessica’s, and we chat for a bit. Then I take today’s picture, and as I’m about to say goodbye to today’s Jessica, Anders from Day 13 walks past! (He got a job working for a tech company in Richmond!). What a Good Friday!
Fact Check - Jessica’s website http://www.womanundone.com
*Fact Check - Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti http://bit.ly/1gGbKhI