My husband found an interesting blog post on the idea of the teacher-led school model. The idea of a greater presence in the classroom for decision-makers is one which piques my interest. I am fortunate to work in an educational community where everybody’s involved in student life. It’s a bit like living in a small town. Mrs. Crabtree tells your Sunday School teacher what she saw and the milkman noticed something too and we’re all talking to your mom. But I digress… Enjoy the post:
This post from TheArtsRoom (in Rhode Island) preaches to the choir but I think you will enjoy many of the quotes. The book mentioned in the post, Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire by Rafe Esquith, is one of my favorite teacher resources. I have a copy in my bookshelf and I ordered one for our school’s library. Enjoy the rest of the reblog!
“I soon learned a basic truth about the arts: students involved in arts education are learning about things far beyond the art they study.” -Rafe Esquith, Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire This weekend marks the midpoint of summer vacation for those of us with school-age children in the house. So, while I will continue to set aside the back-to-school Lands End catalogs and ignore the Staples ads in my inbox, there are some reminders of the fast-app … Read More
I wrote an email to my state’s arts council and the education director who read it got so excited, he posted it in the newsletter. The lesson for me is this: When we think our voice is not heard, our letters go unread or our children’s accomplishments go unnoticed, we may be wrong. Rather than wait for the acknowledgement fairy to visit, we can all write an email to encourage an arts group, thank a teacher or influence a legislator. Trust me, what we think matters. Here’s a reprint of the August 2011 Oklahoma Arts Council Newsletter article in its entirety:
“Quality Arts Education for All Students – Why It’s Important
August 1, 2011
by Michael Eddens
Prompted by ongoing national and statewide conversations on the economy, budget cuts, and government programs, along with an emphasis on student test scores and decreased attention given arts education, I’ve been thinking about the impact (and potential impact) of arts education on Oklahoma students.
As director of arts education programs for the Council, my work involves evaluating arts education programs funded by the Oklahoma Arts Council in schools around the state. From music and theatre camps to visual art programs and innovative arts integration projects, I’ve been impressed by arts education’s power to unlock learning and greatness in young people.
Recently I was greeted by a wonderful email that speaks directly to what’s been on my mind:
Emily, now a 2011 graduate, was encouraged by her drama teacher to enter the competition for plays featuring a character with a disability. Though Emily does not have a disability, she has friends who do. One friend in particular inspired Emily to write the award-winning play, “Handspeak” about a deaf girl and her developing friendship with her interpreter’s non-hearing-impaired son. The VSA representative who called Emily about her award told her it was very easy to select her play as it stood out for its excellence
Emily also won first prize last year in the local City-County Library System Young Author’s Competition with a different play about how mental health issues affect families in her updated and exploratory modern take on the Lizzie Borden tale. One of the contest judges who is also a university professor and director noted that it was the best student play he had come across in his five years directing the library plays. This is a prestigious honor for a local kid and as a proud mama I wanted to tell you!
All of my children love and participate in the arts. It’s important to their success as students. Because even with the positive things they do academically there is no way I could get them out of bed in the morning without a vibrant arts program in their school.
Thank you so much Sally, for that story. Sally’s letter provides an example of why it’s important for us to ensure quality arts education for all Oklahoma students.
While some youth have the means by which to explore, experience, play, practice, and learn to develop their creative talents, many students are not as fortunate. And while most children may not endeavor to become an artist, Sally’s letter demonstrates the importance of students being allowed the opportunity to participate and grow in the arts should they choose. And though students may become accountants, doctors, home builders, or business managers, the skills and knowledge acquired from arts education will surely transfer to their adult lives.
Sally’s letter is also an example of how relevant arts education remains for today’s youth. This is not only an example of how youth can create great art, but also an example of the deep level of social conscience and relevance the arts can inspire. How could anyone argue against the value of such work? Any good parent would be proud to know their child, student, friend, or neighbor had communicated something artistically that could make a real difference in our world.
Overall I am most impressed with Emily’s accomplishments. I love the idea that it actually CAN be our children, Oklahoma children, who achieve things like this if we simply give them the opportunity to do so. Perhaps by preparing our children now, they’ll be equipped to do a better job of dealing with the issues with which we struggle.
Michael Eddens (Director of Arts Education Programs) joined the Council in 2008 after a ten-year career teaching visual art in the Oklahoma City Public School district. Eddens provides oversight for the Council’s school and community-based arts education grants and programs and the Teaching Artist Roster. He also provides consultation on the development of arts education programs and assistance with professional development and arts education advocacy. Michael can be reached at (405) 521-2023 or email@example.com.”
At the recent Creativity Summit in Tulsa this month my kids and I joined a breakout session where we could share our ideas on the question: “How can our schools continue to produce creative young people in a climate of reduced support for education, especially in the arts?” I made a short video and both of my kids answered with a piece of poetry. My daughter’s piece, titled A Sense of Urgency has to do with the reason kids feel misunderstood in the current system. My son’s piece is a reworked poem titled Wasteland. He approaches the idea from a more absurdist perspective because, as he says, the current thinking about education is absurd. Both kids are award-winning writers and I love being able to get a glimpse into their heads. Enjoy!
Barnett Berry Video I gather that some people have had trouble with the embedded video so I am instead making it a link to the Edutoipia site where you can view his video as well as other resources related to education reform. Thanks for letting me know!
Barnett Berry is the president and CEO of the advocacy organization Center for Teaching Quality. In the preceding video he clarifies for all of us just who is going to reform our current system and outlines ways in which that can be done. He bases his ideas on what he calls the Four Emergent Realities:
4. Teacher-preneurs (we used to refer to these progressive educators as mentors) who teach but are also allowed time, space, geography (connecting in person or online) and reward to spread expertise in and out of Cyberspace.
This New York Times story of preschool madness elicits an obvious response: “Are these parents crazy?” There are more subtle forms of directed learning that may thwart rather than propel children. We all know that an over-scheduled child can become a stressed-out child. It would take a month’s worth of blogs to identify negatives associated with stress. For this post I’ll stick to the theme of directed learning. I should call it over-directed learning.
I have seen teachers and parents (including me) pulling their hair in frustration because a child won’t go along with our learning structure. I am a fan of giving a certain amount of structure to kids. This includes a few rules, a reliable schedule and logical consequences. That structure allows kids freedom to create within a psychologically safe environment. But here is where I differ from those who push their children to earn their place among the learning superstars before they enter middle school. A child who plays with Lego’s by destroying and rebuilding or spins around in the backyard until he falls down, stands up, looks around, and spins again is learning. We label this kind of learning “play” and by doing so we reduce its importance in the educational hierarchy. Learning does not only occur at a desk or in an environment where right answers rule the day.
Coercing children into directed learning environments such as the one described in the New York Times article or even placing your baby near the stereo to hear Beethoven’s 5th Symphony has only a short-term effect on spatial-temporal reasoning and no discernible increase in intelligence. Why, then, do we continue down these competitive paths? Sometimes we favor organizational skills and following directions over experiment and exploration. Imposing adult standards on children for things like order, neatness and organization has more to do with convenience and less to do with allowing children to learn and grow. Failure Freedom is missing in these environments.
The freedom to fail boldly is what allows for quantum leaps in learning. By encouraging our children to be afraid of failure and push harder to please the adults in their lives we have siphoned the gas from our educational engine. It took me three kids and many years in the classroom to learn this lesson. But my failures (and not the copious books I have read) have been my greatest learning tool.
Dr. Robert Sternberg, is an American psychologist and psychometrician and Provost at Oklahoma State University. He was formerly President of the American Psychological Association. Although Dr. Sternberg developed assessments for creativity and practicality (problem solving) he is not a fan of the current model of educational testing. He asserts that rather than focus on what has been learned, he is interested in assessing a student’s ability to learn. In his talk at a recent Creativity Summit at the Philbrook Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he answered his own questions, “What do you mean by creativity?” and “Why isn’t everyone creative?” He restated an idea he promotes in much of his work: “There are people who buy low and sell high in the world of ideas.” This is shorthand for Sternberg’s Investment Theory of Creativity developed with Dr. Todd Lubart. My short version of the theory goes something like this: Creative people come up with novel ideas. The mere novelty of the idea causes it to be rejected by the majority of people. This rejection is not just a rejection but an acceptance of the status quo. This is the “buy low” portion of the theory. The innovator invests effort into convincing others that the idea is not only workable but superior to the status quo. This precedes the “sell high” portion of the argument. When an idea’s value is finally recognized, the creator ‘sells’ the idea to others to develop while the innovator moves on to other projects. As Sternberg notes, “If you think about it, that’s what creativity is about.”
1: Decide if you have a problem that seems unsolvable. Then ask, “Can I redefine the problem?”
2: When you have a creative idea, ask yourself three questions: a) What’s the best that can happen? b) What’s the worst that can happen? and, c) What’s likely to happen? This helps an innovator analyze potential outcomes.
3. Look for entrenchment. “Where there’s vested interest, it’s hard to sell creative ideas.”
4. Realize that knowledge is a double-edged sword when it comes to creativity. Knowledge means less repetition but it can also cause entrenchment. When knowledge of past outcomes is the lens through which a person creates, “many experts are less creative… [because] they can’t see through other lenses.”
5. Be willing to take sensible risks.
6. Persevere in the face of obstacles.
7. Find what you love to do. “With your kids and with your students, what’s important is not what you want them to do but what they want to do.”
Dr. Sternberg is an authentic and innovative thinker. Despite expertise that could cause entrenchment in a less playful personality, Dr. Sternberg is the perfect person to explore the educational landscape of assessments and creativity. Although the entrenchment many of us face in the world of teaching makes innovation challenging, it will help to remember Dr. Sternberg’s 6th Key Decision. Keeping the creativity conversation alive may cause enough of a shift to allow innovative thinkers a seat at the table when assessments are discussed.
After a summer vacation-inspired hiatus, I am back in the saddle to begin Monday-Wednesday-Friday blogging again on the subject of creativity and education. I attended a “creativity summit” a week ago for my city where Robert Sternberg, one of my favorite educators, was the keynote speaker. I invited two of my kids to come and listen and express their opinions in the group discussion portion of the day. The purpose of the event was not stated in any of the literature I received. This, otherwise, was an interesting and edifying event. Apparently, creativity is not as easily discussed as it is… experienced. The best part of the day for my kids was a break out session where they found a creative way to answer a prompt concerning education and creativity. During the lecture portion of the day, speaker after speakertook to the stage and talked about their various projects. Some were more on point than others. I could have listened to Sternberg talk all day. He is funny and interesting and has a lot to say about education and the creative life. The flow of the discussion meandered from outdoor architectural spaces to multicultural representation to how we compare with the other metropolis in our state and who in the country is ahead of us (creatively speaking). One of the most interesting speakers was architect Shawn Michael Schaefer. According to the literature he is the Director of the University of Oklahoma Urban Design Studio and a faculty member of the College of Architecture. The loose discussion was interesting but at the same time it felt a little disjointed. I later learned this summit is only a starting point for more and deeper discussions. If the support at this particular meeting is an indicator, this could be the beginning of a very exciting creative period in my city.