Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Exceptionally Effective- Creativity

  I learned very early in my career that teaching from another teacher's plan is not as easy as it sounds.  One thing that I have appreciated about the research study on effective teachers that we've been exploring is the emphasis on the importance of personality characteristics of teachers.  Because of our differing personalities and styles-- and those of our students-- very few resources can be used "as is."  Learning to integrate and adapt the ideas of others effectively rather than simply "stealing" and passing it off as your own is an essential skill for a teacher.

One of the most encouraging parts of our job comes when we create that unique and effective learning experience for our students that motivates and inspires them in their efforts.  Games and simulations that allow students to really experience the "aha!" moment or new technologies that enable students to engage the curriculum in novel and creative ways on their own demonstrates to us what good teaching looks like.  I've written before about the art of teaching in my post "Teaching and Donuts" and I find the creative element of teaching to be one of the most life giving aspects of the profession.

I would like to think that in the current era of standardization and reform that more people understood this.  Many teachers see active engagement, differentiated instruction, and technology integration as roadblocks and an extra burden on their time.  More and more, that seems to be the piece that we are missing as teachers-- time.

Consider the following story from author Nancy Beach's An Hour On Sunday:
        As an artist at Hallmark Cards, Gordon MacKenzie sought to preserve and protect his own creative spirit. Orbiting the Giant Hairball, one of my all-time favorite books, beautifully describes Gordon's journey.
       Gordon illustrates the tension between management and artists when it comes to production pace. He asks the reader to imagine a serene pasture where a dairy cow is quietly eating grass, chewing her cud, and swishing her tail.
       Outside the fence stands "a rotund gentleman in a $700, powder-blue, pinstripe suit." This gentleman is livid that the cow is not working hard. He doesn't understand that whatever milk the cow produces when placed on the milking machine is directly related to the time the cow spends out in the field—"seemingly idle, but, in fact, performing the alchemy of transforming grass into milk."
       Gordon skillfully compares the rotund gentleman to management leaders all over the country who have no patience for the "quiet time essential to profound creativity."
The classroom teacher must work diligently to find the opportunities to collaborate and communicate with colleagues, and most importantly, to reflect...
       ...about what we're doing
          ... and why we do it
             ... and how we can do it better

I only wish that more people would recognize this and grant me the time to be creative for our children.  But until then I will strive to carve out as much time in my life as I can to reflect and consider the classroom, the canvas for my creativity.

With that, we would like to claim the next four days as holiday and let our minds and bodies rest, because the students we will meet on Monday morning deserve our best, not our leftovers.  May we all find peace and rest, Happy Thanksgiving.


  1. Well said. The Chambers brothers could not have said it any better.

  2. Thanks for the comment, but I have to plead ignorance on the Chambers brothers. Care to fill me in?