Blog 1 – Reformers
ok… oK…. OK….. (add in the sound of gears grinding to a halt)
I have two confessions to make.
- I began working on this assignment thinking, “GREAT – another assignment that will take up hours of my time and provide absolutely no results or help me develop as a teacher.”
- I am unknowingly killing the creativity and dreams of students in my classroom. Me, the Director of the S.H.I.E.L.D. Training Center – BMS Mathematics Division, killing creativity and dreams like Kylo Ren killed Han Solo. I know, I know. I mixed genres. Calm down.
But… “It’s true… All of it, it’s true.” (Solo, 2015).
I love teaching and having fun being one of the oldest middle school students in history. My classroom is arguably the most creative room in the school district. My students are Agents of SHIELD and the Avengers are hanging on my walls. My lessons are designed to teach content and introduce students to new Marvel characters. I walk the halls wearing a shark head while the theme from Jaws plays over the public address system. I dress like a pirate each September 19th! I likely have more fun at work than anyone is probably legally allowed to have. Well, maybe not. Comedians probably have a lot of fun too. But having fun while teaching is what I do and what I know I am supposed to be doing! After listening to three TED talks, I think I need to reevaluate my approach to educating the future generation.
I am realizing that all the fun I’m having may only be creative for me or a very small percentage of my students. What am I really doing to foster the creativity in my students? The answer to that question is, I don’t know.
Do schools kill creativity? – Sir Ken Robinson TED Talk (2006)
In Robinson’s 2006 TED talk, a few things he said are sticking and stirring up something inside me. I think people call them emotions? But I could be wrong.
“…if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original – if you’re not prepared to be wrong.”
The quote has definitely got me thinking. I encourage my students all the time and tell them to take a risk! Be wrong! It’s okay to be wrong, but be confident in your answer until someone proves to you that you were wrong. However, the educational system, myself included places far too much emphasis on the end result – the test scores. Students are being taught how to take the test and receive a grade. They are not provided with the opportunities to be wrong and learn from their mistakes. My lessons are mostly direct instruction followed by a worksheet and void of the creative element that allows students to learn from trial and error. Honestly, it’s because I have to cover x amount of content in y amount of time.
To change the mundane task of the old classroom, I have flipped my 8th-grade class. To incorporate more creativity, I now have students make instructional videos on the problems they did not get correct on an assessment to receive credit. The videos are shared for other students to view with the hopes that they will understand the process better. But it still leaves me wondering – Is there a better project that students can work on that would increase their creativity and allow them to learn through failure at the same time? All the while, teaching the content necessary for them to be successful on the standardized assessments.
The second quote is found below.
“If you think of it, the whole system of public education around the world is a protracted process of university entrance. And the consequence is that many highly-talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not, because the thing they were good at school wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatized. And I think we can’t afford to go on that way.”
Do we push students towards college entrance? I didn’t realize there was another option. I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard the term “College and Career Ready” used in a faculty meeting or professional development session. Or the number of times I’ve heard teachers tell students they have to go to college if you want to have a good job. I remember being told the same thing twenty years ago. When I graduated from high school, I wasn’t ready to go to college and had no desire. I enlisted in the US Army to pursue my dream. Nine years later, I was ready and enrolled.
Instead of pushing the student towards a college degree, why not allow them to pursue their own creative desires? Robinson had an interesting story about a young lady, Gillian Lynne. In the 1930’s, her teachers said she had a learning disorder because she couldn’t concentrate and fidgeted in her seat. After seeking professional advice, Gillian’s mother enrolled her in dance school and she would later become one of the premier dancers in ballet. Her talents would have likely been suppressed by the educational system because her talents were not valued or understood by the classroom teacher. Aren’t we (society) still doing this today? Students’ that are highly active, fidgety, or constantly doodling are penalized because they did not properly evaluate 2x + 7 = 21. Is there a way to allow students to utilize their creative talents while mastering the content?
Bring on the revolution! – Sir Ken Robinson TED Talk (2010)
“And every day, everywhere, our children spread their dreams beneath our feet. And we should tread softly.”
Above is a quote from Robinson’s TED Talk (2010) that is convicting me to the core. He referenced a story about a young student with dreams of becoming a fireman. A teacher told him that becoming a fireman would basically be throwing his life away. The student did not give up on the pursuit of the dream and became a fireman. Ironically enough, as the story was told, that same student had to perform CPR on the teacher and his wife after they were involved in an automobile accident.
For the majority of my adult life, I have tried to live in a world of reality. It has been void of creativity, imagination, and dreams. I was told as a child that I need to just grow up and join the workforce. I didn’t have to abandon my dream because I wanted to be an army man. It was a realistic dream and obtainable. It wasn’t until I became a middle school teacher that I realized that similar to the students in my classroom, I have lost the ability to dream. To make matters worse, I have found myself being the teacher that Robinson was talking about.
I walk with very heavy feet. I try to keep my students grounded in reality and by doing so, I now feel that I am not just trampling on their dreams, but jumping off the top ropes and giving their dreams the Atomic Elbow! There must be a balance between reality and dreams, but where is that balance? For example, I have a few students that struggle and are academically ineligible but claim they are going pro. I always find myself asking questions. Is the talent there? Will they be the right size? Do they have the work ethic? No. So naturally, I tell them it’s not going to happen and show them the statistics of someone actually making it to the professional level of play. But does that mean it can never happen? No. Did I kill their dream? Likely not, but it’s a nail in the coffin. How can I change the way I educate my students while pushing them to achieve their dreams? I don’t know that I can answer this question… Yet.
Five dangerous things you should never let your kids do – Gever Tulley TED Talk (2007)
Gever Tulley’s five dangerous things were brilliant! I cover them and so much more at home with my children. Regretfully, I do not do it in the classroom. I feel that we have sheltered and protected our students to a point where it becomes debilitating. By pushing the safety first model at them from all directions, we are actually taking away their problem-solving skills and depriving them of valuable learning opportunities. We need to teach the students how to interact with their environment and express their creativities using different medias. I understand the post and the big push is for integrated technology, but sometimes the old school skills are essential to foster the creative process.
At my school, we are currently in the process of changing our 1990’s library into a modern media center with a Makerspace. The goal is to create a learning environment that allows students to explore, design, and create projects using common items and their imaginations. During the initial design process, I was focused on integrating only the best technology. I wanted tech that would make Google look like a chalkboard. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to Bill Gates’ checkbook and my vision will have to look drastically different. I found that it is very easy to get distracted and caught up in the technology integration and forget about the opportunities to teach students how to problem solve using any and all means available. After listening to Tulley’s TED talk, I am rethinking the possible opportunities for the Makespace and projects that I can incorporate into my classroom lessons.
In regards to my first confession, the assignment has probably been one of the most beneficial assignments I have done during my entire Master’s program. I’m about 5 hours in on this assignment and it takes a while to gather my thoughts. It’s like herding kindergarteners but I am motivated to change the way I currently do things in the S.H.I.E.L.D. Training Center.
Here are also two other great articles I read relating to the creative process and how educators can foster the process.
Creativity on the Brink – A. Starko
One to Grow On / Fairy Dust and Grit – C. Tomlinson
Quotes. (2015). Retrieved September 09, 2017, from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2488496/quotes
Robinson, K. (2010). Bring on the learning revolution! Retrieved September 09, 2017, from https://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_revolution
Robinson, K. (2006. Do schools kill creativity? Retrieved September 09, 2017, from https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity
Starko, A. (2013). Creativity on the Brink? Retrieved September 09, 2017, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/feb13/vol70/num05/Creativity-on-the-Brink¢.aspx
Tomlinson, C. (2013). One to Grow On / Fairy Dust and Grit. Retrieved September 09, 2017, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/feb13/vol70/num05/Fairy-Dust-and-Grit.aspx
Tulley, G. (2007). 5 dangerous things you should let your kids do. Retrieved September 09, 2017, from https://www.ted.com/talks/gever_tulley_on_5_dangerous_things_for_kids