To help encourage conversations about the roles creativity, questions, and an openness to possibilities play in both teaching and learning, our topic/question of the week is: If you say "show me what you learned, in a creative way; don't ask me if your way is ok, just surprise me", what will you do after that?
Spring is finally here! The first week back following a vacation is always a 'full' one, and amidst the busyness of this time of year I hope that everyone has been able to get outside and take a break. Friday night was one of the highlights of the year - attending the Technovation Challenge at Microsoft's NERD center with Blake's teams. Both teams did very well, becoming finalists selected to 'make their pitch' to the professional panel! The rest of the weekend has revolved around sports - Grayden's first K-Clinic soccer, Maggie's softball, Owen's baseball, and we are all enjoyed the annual Little League baseball/softball parade Sunday afternoon.
This week is 'Teacher Appreciation Week' and I sincerely want to share my appreciation for our staff. My list of appreciative thoughts for the Blake staff is an extensive one and I have found that it grows every day. Taking time to pause and reflect a bit has reminded me of the importance of finding the important aspects in everything we do - the threads of influence are critical for our teachers, our students, our parents, and our community. In order to help identify these threads of influence, we must be willing to be creative and push to ask deeper and more difficult questions and, in turn, be willing to discuss, debate, and work to answer the deeper and difficult questions. For this to take place, we also must be willing to examine our habits and potentially change or adopt new ones as well. Below I have highlighted a few posts that resonated with me, bridging philosophy and practice while pushing my own thinking about the work we do every day.
Sir Ken Robinson: Creativity Is In Everything, Especially Teaching
excerpt from Creative Schools by Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica (MindShift blog)
I have always enjoyed reading Ken Robinson's work and hearing/watching his TED talks, and this brief excerpt is worth the read. It underlines the importance of fostering creativity - for students and staff alike.
"There are various myths about creativity. One is that only special people are creative, another is that creativity is only about the arts, a third is that creativity cannot be taught, and a fourth is that it’s all to do with uninhibited “self-expression.”"
"None of these is true. Creativity draws from many powers that we all have by virtue of being human. Creativity is possible in all areas of human life, in science, the arts, mathematics, technology, cuisine, teaching, politics, business, you name it. And like many human capacities, our creative powers can be cultivated and refined. Doing that involves an increasing mastery of skills, knowledge, and ideas."
"Creativity is not a linear process, in which you have to learn all the necessary skills before you get started. It is true that creative work in any field involves a growing mastery of skills and concepts. It is not true that they have to be mastered before the creative work can begin. Focusing on skills in isolation can kill interest in any discipline... The real driver of creativity is an appetite for discovery and a passion for the work itself. When students are motivated to learn, they naturally acquire the skills they need to get the work done. Their mastery of them grows as their creative ambitions expand. You’ll find evidence of this process in great teaching in every discipline from football to chemistry."
Groupthink Prevents the Real Questions From Being Answered
by Jill Berkowicz and Ann Myers in Education Week
I enjoy reading the blog posts from Myers and Berkowicz each week, and this one struck a chord with me. The 'force' of 'Groupthink' ("Groupthink: a tendency within organizations or society to promote or establish the view of the predominant group" Dictionary.com; "Groupthink: a pattern of thought characterized by self-deception, forced manufacture of consent, and conformity to group values and ethics" Merriam-webster.) is explored and I appreciated reading how it can affect and influence the mindset, approach, and culture of an organization. The implications for our entire community are important to think about and keep in mind.
"We need the courageous to step forward and help discern the difference between groupthink and deeper values for the nation's children. We need to return to values and to the common ground that was held when public education became a part of the fabric of our society. There is little question that 20th century school models and 20th century teacher preparation and 20th century leadership preparation models need to shift to a 21st century model. We need the open minded and open hearted to step forward."
All I Have To Do Today is Smile!
by Dan Kerr in Connected Principals blog
In this post Kerr shares how his perspective and mindset about school and his role as principal has changed as of late due to a couple of habit adjustments. He articulates these changes in more detail in the post: 1) taking time to walk the building each morning as a way to start the day looking for 'smiles and joy'; 2) asking staff to help shift the perception of the principal's office by having students sent to the office to be celebrated. Kerr's thoughts are important - not just for his own personal habit adjustments as we each need to find the ones that matter to us; rather, the habit changes allowed him to keep a focus on what matters most.
"...these two shifts have truly allowed me to focus on what I find most important in my work, which is to seek out the beauty of our students and to celebrate them for being the amazing young people that they are. There is so much beauty in the run of a school day that it will make your head spin…change your habits so you allow yourself the opportunity to revel in it…schools are the most beautiful places on earth if you open your eyes, and get in the habit of smile hunting."
I sincerely appreciate our community and hope that this week provides opportunities for us to collectively acknowledge the professionalism, dedication, teaching, and learning that takes place every day - encouraging creativity, pushing for deeper questions, and reflecting upon our habits. We have much to work on and are far from perfect, but I firmly believe that the foundation is in place. Happy 'Teacher Appreciation Week' to our staff - it is well-deserved.
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