Sunday, June 14, 2009


My son Christopher gives a
speech at a retirement party
for teachers Heather Speers (left)
and Shelagh O'Sullivan (right) today.

Artists are often asked who influenced them. That used to
be fairly easy to determine. You had a passion for Diebenkorn
and took classes with Skip Lawrence, loved the portraits
of Lucian Freud, couldn't get enough of Mary Cassatt, and
loved Lynn Donoghue. All of that's changed. Now we
roam around the internet and are wowed by dozens of
artists in a sitting sometimes. We regularly visit certain
artists' sites, and they zip us over to a dozen others.
We may still have our passions, but influences are
too many to tabulate.

But I'm thinking about influences in a different
way. We attended the early retirement party today for
two magnificent, dedicated and inspirational teachers
in our sons' lives. They both taught at the public school
across the street our children were lucky to attend.
At that school a devastating infight happened because
there was an alternative school inside a regular public
school, and that was a mistake. (Two schools inside
one is a set up for tension, and the tension shut down the
alternative school.) But after the grim emotional feeling,
and horrible lies about the alternative school were over,
our children were allowed to continue to be taught by
these two lovely teachers until they left after grade six.

One of the women taught mostly grade one, two and
three, and the other grade five and six. They were
balanced, sane, curious, cheerful, praising teaching
geniuses, and wonderful influences on our boys. It
was so moving today to watch kids in their late teens
and 20s, hugging these two teachers and clearly saddened
by the fact that they were retiring. All of the teachers
in the alternative school were friends, so although
the program has been gone for years, these teachers
continue to be close friends.

And what's even more amazing, is that all the parents
from that school, which virtually ended when Sam was
four, are still friends, meet regularly for coffee (they
can find one another every Tuesday at 10:30 in the
morning at someone's house if they're not working), have parties
together, support one another in hard times, and care
deeply about each other. When our children attended
that little alternative school, we all used to say that it
was a community, at the party this afternoon, it was
clear that we still are.

My youngest dropped in to talk to the teachers before
he went off to work, and my older son gave a speech
honouring the teachers on behalf of all the students.
There was no question in any of our minds that these
two exceptional people, deeply moved by the occasion,
had a meaningful and lasting influence on our children.

Have an enjoying-what-influences-you day.


L.Holm said...

What a beautiful and touching story, Barbara. Truly sounds like a special group of teachers, parents and students to care so much for one another and to keep in touch. Your sons are great young men to be so giving of their time and voices. thanks for sharing this. It's always uplifting visiting your blog! xoLiz

Susan Carlin said...

When I visit your blog, Barbara, I know I'm going to be lifted up by your words and delighted with your paintings and sketches. You sing me to you... and I love your song.

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Liz,

My sons are great young men it's true. They are kind and loving, which I think is a huge part of what matters in life.

Take care,


Barbara Muir said...

Hi Susan,

You are so sweet. So I think I'm singing your plane right over my head and all the way to Ireland. Lucky you. Don't ever tell my children I sing, they'll beg me to stop.

Have a super journey.


laura said...

Your sons' participation must have meant so much to the teachers. I've been lucky to have had a handful of teachers, throughout my life, affect me profoundly ... sitting here thinking of them, I have a lump im throat!
What an amazing thing to affect another's life so strongly and positively!

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Laura,

I certainly hope that I am the kind ofteacher who students remember fondly. I remember volunteering in both of these teachers classrooms, and thinking I needed to be more like them when I teach college students.

Looking back I know that some of the most valuable lessons in my life came from a few truly fabulous teachers.

Take care,


Anonymous said...

How sweet of your sons to participate in this many years after they finished that school too.
You and Steven certainly have raised 2 wonderful young men!
Also, that sketch of Steven looks so much like your boys. xoFlora

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Flora,

It was really sweet of my boys to go to the retirement, but all of the kids there were either in university or finished. So these teachers had a profound effect on them. Yes I noticed that Sam looks quite a bit like Steven did when Sam was a baby.


Portrait Artist

My photo
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I paint and draw on commission and for shows. To commission a portrait, or purchase one of my paintings please contact me at:
A major highlight in my career? Drawing Oprah Winfrey live via Skype for her show "Where in the Skype are you? Galleries: Studio Vogue Gallery, Toronto, Canada. The Amsterdam Whitney Gallery, New York City. Gallery at the Porch Door, Kingston, Canada. Your positive comments on this blog mean the world to me. I'd love to hear from you!