With a 5th grader, two 3rd graders, & a 1st grader all under my roof, I have enjoyed (understatement) seeing how my children's own learning has developed within and beyond the walls of their schools. Further, from an academic programming standpoint, two of my daughters are English Language Learners, having joined our family three years ago from Ethiopia. Three of my children have participated in reading intervention, two in speech and language support, and one in academically talented services. As an educator and a mom, I understand how varied the needs of children can be and how much of a challenge it can be to both enrich and support.
I also know the incredible gift of seeing creative energy unfold in my own children aside from any of the ways we might describe their academic path; I believe all children have this within. In recent weeks, I read and commented on Day 5: Dreaming About Education by @stumpteacher #12DOD on Brett Clark's blog. Josh Stumpenhorst's post mentioned engaging children at school at the level they are engaged at home and the need for parents and teachers to come together, among many other points I recommend you take time to read and consider. I considered these words as a mom rather than simply a school principal and shared this:
So many items here that I agree with as an educator and a mom, Josh. Wondering if I could do better as a mom to share out the engaged learning that happens in my home. Recently our basement has been transformed into 'Hogwarts' where my kids and their cousins created a class to teach one another. My son and his friends also took sidewalk chalk to the unfinished basement floor a different day to draw bases for their Star Wars ships as they mapped out what my son calls a figure battle. How do we share what happens unprompted in our homes with a larger community to demonstrate what can happen? I know as an educator, I've considered and reconsidered a lot from observing this in my own home coupled with my conversations with educator/parents like you.
So as educators and parents, how DO we harness this creative energy? How do we make that super-power a way of being and not just a fleeting moment when they are very young? How do we know that the spirit we see in kindergarten can continue to shape them as learners beyond? While this can indeed lead into some complex conversations from homework to developmentally appropriate practice and beyond, start by thinking what you can do in your role ,whether it be parent, teacher, administrator, or teacher of teachers, to promote and value student creativity; it is probably more than you realize.
I think back to visiting a class the last week before winter break that was being led by a substitute teacher. As the children prepared to color seals, the substitute talked about what color seals should be and what colors or patterns they are simply not. I couldn’t help but smile as I watched twenty-four little kindergarten heads shake back and forth in disagreement. One girl stated: “It is okay for my seal to have stripes if I want. My teacher said"
Let’s pledge to encourage that creativity where we can, celebrate it when we see it, and be outspoken about "permission." If you feel the same and are a teacher, do your students know you’re inspired by their creativity and want them to use that gift? If you’re an administrator and you agree, do your teachers know where you stand? Do they know creative sometimes trumps “right”? And back to the initial question I posed to Josh, how do we showcase that creativity so that its difference-making power shines through?
You can find Kathy on Twitter: @principalkmelt, check out her blog: Once Upon a Principalship; or send her an e-mail.
Tomorrow: "Teaching with Intention," by @countryfunCC.