I am often inspired by things I see. It goes with the kind of learner I tend to be, too, as things make more sense when I see them in addition to hearing them. So let’s start with a picture. It’s what inspired this post:
If you have been around here for a while, you know that I am a thinker. Sometimes I think too much. Like I-can’t-get-to-sleep-for-a-long-time-at-night-because-my-brain-won’t-turn-off kind of thinking. Most often, though, I can use my overactive brain for good things.
I discovered this bracelet the other night in my jewelry box, after not having worn it for a while. I actually forgot I had it. It was a gift from a fabulous family I’ve had the pleasure of working with at school. I was lucky enough to have taught two of their children–one of them twice! As I looked down at the charm, I thought of how “Let Creativity Rule” could really be one of the phrases for my life. It seems to come up in so many places for me.
In my classroom, I try to be the kind of teacher who is a facilitator and a designer, rather than a dictator or an information-dumper (yeah, I just made that up, I think). I believe that knowledge is most powerful when you create it for yourself, and that connections kids make on their own mean much more than ones I make for them. I see my role as an educator as the one who helps create opportunities for my learners to figure things out, to put things together, to wonder and then discover answers for themselves. Don’t get me wrong–there are times when you have to lay it all out there, because yes, there are some things that kiddos would never just find out without guidance. But for the most part, I want my students to be in charge of their learning.
Alongside the opportunities, comes the freedom to make choices about how that learning will happen. There are very few things in my classroom that I have to have happen a certain way; labeling is one of the things I care deeply about, as well as coloring-coding certain things we use all the time, as a means of helping to keep things organized. Oh, and fonts. I love them. I collect them in fact, and usually have one as my “go-to” font for the year. And yes, I have been known to recreate forms and sheets that people share with me because I have to make them look a certain way. Hey–everyone has something like that right? But outside of those couple of things, my children are free to make decisions about what and how they learn things, as well as how they demonstrate that learning. I want my kiddos to have a variety of ways to show what they know; not everyone can best do this with pencil and paper as is typical in many classrooms. It is common for my students to show their understanding of a concept by building with Legos, using big wooden blocks, drawing a picture, acting it out, recording themselves talking about it, writing a story (or some other kind of explanation) and yes, sometimes by taking a test. The possibilities are endless, and one of the things I like the best is that sometimes kids come up with ideas that are even better than an option I could have given them. The point is showing me–as well as their classmates–that they understand what they’re learning.
I appreciate creativity in my life outside of school, as well. Part of what balances me in my work life is taking the time to “play” and do things that bring out my crafty side. I like to sew, to design, and to build things. While I would not say I am particularly gifted in any of those areas, it’s another way to use my brain, and I enjoy seeing the products of my handiwork (and just in case you’re interested, I think I even wrote about it a few years ago on this blog…)
The other thing I was thinking as I was looking at my hand (that sounds really funny, doesn’t it?) is how important my family is to me. My wedding rings remind me of my fabulous hubby and our amazing kids, and how lucky I am to have them. I don’t think I would be the teacher I am, actually, without them. I take so much of them to school with me, and they often help me think through struggles I’m having and help me solve problems (my son is really helping me this year since he was in 1st grade last year, I run a lot of ideas by him before I try them with my Rm. 202 kiddos!). My husband is a teacher, as well, and I know that while there is a LOT of shop talk at our house, I am so grateful to have a spouse who “gets” what I do. We have even taught the same grade levels at times, which makes for another layer of fun as we brainstorm classroom ideas together. I have been thinking lately how much being a mom helps me as a teacher, too. Don’t get me wrong, you can be a GREAT teacher without being a parent, but for me, there has been another level of understanding since I’ve had kids of my own. Oh, and now that my kids are in school, I have a much better understanding of what it means to give your baby over to the care of someone else. I am so blessed that the families I work with let me do that every day. Believe me–I do my best to do them proud and take good care of their little ones, as I would hope would happen for mine!
It’s funny how just seeing something can spark so many things in your brain. What image or picture have you been inspired by lately? What phrase would you say defines your life? How do you let your creativity rule? I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to leave a comment and tell me all about it! :)