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West Side Teacher and Children’s Author Shares Her Story

Hailey MacDonald, Editor-in-Chief

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In every high school student’s life, this dreaded question is asked: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Some students are lucky enough to know right away, having lifelong aspirations and dreams that they’re sure they’re going to accomplish. For the most part, young adults do not know what they want to do for the rest of their life. They tend to figure it out as they move through college while they’re studying the subject of their choice, and some may even take whatever job is available to them and stick with it for their career. However, students and young adults shouldn’t let the opinions of their peers, teachers or authority figures direct them away from the path they long to follow. You should never be afraid to follow your dreams.

Another misconception is that everything you do in your life has to be flawless. Perfection is success, and mistakes

An illustration from Happy Accidents

signify failure. Yet, that’s not always the case; mistakes are crucial to success, and in order to move forward, you must learn from your mistakes.

Amy Green Carter, an art teacher at John Ashley Kindergarten as well as Fausey Elementary in West Springfield, strongly believes in this motif. In fact, Carter wrote and illustrated a children’s book entitled Happy Accidents, telling the story of Mrs. Honeydew, a teacher and artist that smells like flowers and paint, who wears crayon jewelry and paint brushes in her hair. Mrs. Honeydew strives to make art out of her mistakes, or accidents as she calls them in the book, and uses this art to teach her students that accidents are beneficial. One of the concluding lines of the book conveys the theme best: “Life is full of mistakes, and when you figure out how to turn them into something different, something special… you have made a happy accident.” This book is meant to teach children to not only embrace their mistakes, but to turn them into something new.

Happy Accidents was initially written for her thesis when Carter was in graduate school, but it wasn’t until years later that she decided to finalize and publish it. “A big inspiration for the book was my students,” Carter shared. She

Amy Green Carter

explained how throughout her time teaching in both Springfield and West Springfield, she recognized that students were struggling with trauma and an “inability to deal with making a mistake.” Her book teaches children to not only face their mistakes, but to also learn from them.

Her whole life, Carter has been infatuated with art. Both of her parents also held the same love as her, and she recalls painting with her mother and father throughout her childhood. She also claims that she fell naturally into helping people. When she got into high school, she began exploring different avenues of artistry as well as some other meaningful lessons. In a multi-cultural diversity class, Carter was assigned the task of creating a children’s book; this project jump started her interest in the children’s writing field, and it was something that never left her. “Writing a children’s book was kind of on my bucket list,” Carter recalled.

Years later, after speaking with and getting help from other West Springfield teachers that were published children’s authors, she fulfilled this dream. She received help with proofreading and editing from her peers, and also dedicated the book’s aesthetic success to a graphic designer who helped take her paintings from the canvas and onto the page. Carter eventually decided to self-publish her book rather than go through a secondary publishing company, which allowed her to maintain full rights to her creation.

Carter stressed that writing and publishing the book was not for financial gain. “I honestly don’t think anyone should ever do anything purely off of making money,” she stated, “Money doesn’t buy happiness.” Carter fulfilled this dream because it was what she wanted to do, not because it was what she had to do. She encourages everyone to follow their dreams and always do what they want to do, even if other people are against it. “I think following your dreams is important because it’s this inner voice that is never going to go away. It’s like the universe is telling you to do it, and that sounds so cliche, but everyone has something in them that they want to do. It doesn’t matter what other people

An illustration from Happy Accidents

think, you’re doing it for you.” This piece of advice is important for young adults to hear, and is motivating for those who are trying to find their place in the world while also trying to stay on track for a successful future.

Carter’s book, Happy Accidents, is available on sale through her website, www.amygreencarter.com, and also will be on sale at her painting classes, Happy oOps. These events are open to children ages 6-12 in which they will be able to paint with the idea of embracing their mistakes, and turn them into happy accidents. The classes will be held at local venues in Easthampton and Springfield, and they’ll work to raise money in order to fund Happy oOps through its travels to local homeless shelters. This program is through an organization called oOps, which helps provide training and employment to people with disabilities.

“The more open you are to making mistakes and not viewing them as failure, the more successful you will be,” Carter remarked. So, next time you are bombarded with questions regarding what you want to be when you grow up use a different approach. Think backwards. Amy Green Carter shares one last piece of parting advice: “Maybe a better question would be, ‘What problems do you want to solve in the world?’” Your thoughts will lead you down a road of discovery, and that is one way to find you true place in the world. Wherever this life takes you, remember to embrace your mistakes, learn from them and never let the opinions of others stand in the way of your success.

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West Side Teacher and Children’s Author Shares Her Story