Do Schools Kill Creativity?

Mrs. C and I have had the 6th graders working on Ken Burns documentary style PhotoStory videos, and a common theme from the students has been, “This is FUN and I’m learning so much!” Makes one wonder, are we killing creativity? From the TED website:

Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.

Creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson challenges the way we’re educating our children. He champions a radical rethink of our school systems, to cultivate creativity and acknowledge multiple types of intelligence. Enjoy!

What Is Going On at CES and JTY?

Recent events and news occuring at our schools:
Mrs. Connell took her class on an “archaeology dig” to Colonial Williamsburg. Using Ignite/ION to begin the lesson, students were able to review key terms, and afterwards, Mr. McKee shared information from his own digs at CW before students embarked on their own “dig” in the classroom. After the activity, students presented their theories about what they thought items were that they dug up.

Mrs. Daniels recently made a Kidspiration template for students to use during their computer lab time

Ms. Laughlin is working on Main Idea interactive activities in the computer lab and is preparing to web using Inspiration

Mrs. White had students import pictures of themselves into Paint, cut out digitally parts of imported pictures and insert their own faces on to the space to create new “creatures” to help discuss classroom rules. I have even had feedback from teachers in other buildings who have commented that they want to do this activity in their own lessons!

Mrs. Baum recently had students make sensory word posters using Big Huge Labs. They also made synonym posters in Microsoft Word to make words come “alive” and increase their vocabulary awareness.

Mrs. Cash is preparing to use Thinkfinity interactives in her unit on cells.

First grade teachers at CES are preparing to use laptops with their students on a regular basis.

Mrs. Barrett is having a Past and Present cookout with her students on Friday. They will use measuring cups and recipes to prepare fried apples over an open campfire and compare past cooking (campfire) and present (camping stove). Students will take pictures with Hamilton Cameras of the day’s activities and parents who are attending.

Mrs. Serafine, Crist, and Patgorski are reporting exciting things about advanced Inspire training at Tech Tuesday.

Mrs. Patgorski and Sanford are STOKED about the Quia training that they are receiving at Tech Tuesday and are already using it regularly in their classrooms.

Mrs. Jernigan has jumped on the Inspiration bandwagon and is asking how to make containers and restrictors on her flipcharts!

Mrs. Kirk was the first one to jump on board and has begun working on her professional development Menu!

15 teachers at CES have already expressed interest in attending morning Promethean Users Group meetings (could it be the food? Nooooooooooo….)

The 4th and 6th grade teams at CES are preparing for an Archaeology Dig and Colonial Fair to be held this Spring. We’ll be making videos of the day as well as Voicethreads/podcasts.

Mrs. McCullough is excited after her Data Projector training as she prepares to use it for her Social Studies classes.

Mrs. Rhodes is smiling now when she mentions technology! You’re our poster child! 

Mrs. Lyman used her Promethean Board with Mr. McKee and Mrs. Sherrill on the first day it was up, and students learned so quickly how to maneuver through the Menubar that all three teachers were able to step back!

Mrs. Butera is enjoying her document camera cart very much!

Mrs. Sirna is working on a Voicethreads project

Mrs. Hudgins missed her MCPS room so much that she went on a hunt for another data projector and loves having one back

Mr. Shenk is incorporating technology in his PE lessons on a regular basis with a data projector cart and digital equipment to track exercise and time activities.

Ms. Campbell reports that her MCPS room is great for helping incorporate technology into her music lessons as she teaches guitar and other instruments.

Mrs. Woody worked with all first grade classes and took them on Geometry Scavenger Hunts in the building, shooting geometry pictures wherever shapes were found that they were studying

Mrs. Jordan is working with a group of fifth graders on Math picture collages with pictures taken around the building

Mrs. Blanford is using her ActivSlate and Document Camera with great glee in the Reading Lab!

Mrs. Ruben reports that she is passing her wireless keyboard around during lessons for students to use during the lessons

14 JTY teachers will be attending Breakfast with your TRT on 11/7 in room 108 to learn about Promethean tricks and Promethean Planet

Mr. Nonnemacher shared a home video and pictures of a hail storm with his flip chart for 4th grade’s study of storms

If I missed something, feel free to share by adding a comment and letting us all know!

How Would You Change Education?

CaptureIf you are a teacher, you know the pressure of accountability and the scrutiny that we are receiving in the press and media. In short, the mantra seems to be, “Get those test scores up.” Ever wonder what students think? What if they had a chance to sit all those down who are responsible for schooling and say, “This is what I would do” or “this is how I would run the place!”

Steve Hargadon , creator of Classroom 2.0, has done just that with a new site Elevd:

We encourage students to submit videos that…
• Offer new ideas for what education could be, and/or
• Inspire others to transform education, and/or
• Propose specific actions you or others can take to improve education in your community

This is not only an example of students using technology to submit their ideas, but there are some nuggets of wisdom contained in these. If you have any students that wish to submit a video that they create, or have an idea for one, let me know!

Bored OUT OF MY MIND: Could Learning Increase if it was FUN?

I’m sitting reading through a text of random sampling, nonrandom sampling, statistics, and who-knows-what as I start approaching The Mighty Thesis semester. Brain cells have been jumping in mass to their death, I hear a buzz in my head, my neck is suffering from tension, I’m staring out the window, and thinking, “Will grad school ever end?” Reading, and reading, and reading on top of 19 exams for one THREE hour class as well as four papers? I think of our students today who can only think of three words, as well as the teachers: Pass the test. I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth a revisiting: what if school was–gasp–wheeze–I need air!–did he SAY THAT?–here it comes: F-U-N? How often I hear from scores of teachers from everywhere, “We’ll do the fun stuff after SOL testing is over.”

Here are some clips that might make you think differently:

Avoiding Teacher Burnout for the Holidays; a Friday Reflection

It happened today. I knew it was coming; little did I know how it would affect me. Burnout. Big time. Brian’s brain flat lined. Deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee (picture a brain activity monitor).

I went to wash my hands this morning and water was not coming out of the faucet. No matter how hard I tried pushing the handle up, no water burst forth! Looking down, I realized I was pushing up on the soap dispenser. Not only was this bad enough, but I kept doing the same thing over and over! I turned to see if anyone saw me (why do we do that?), I stared at myself in the mirror and shook my head, and left. You may know the feeling—you turn off the engine after you’ve pulled into the parking lot—and wonder how in the world you got there. You remember NOTHING about your excursion from home to work. Your first reaction? Are there blue lights flashing behind me?

I’ve come up with a prescription for the holidays:

• Focus on the positive (isn’t that an original?): I remember one year working with a colleague that was always negative and it started affecting me. Once I removed myself from that atmosphere, stress didn’t leave, but I had more energy.
• Work smarter: what can you do to lessen your workload and still not hurt the quality of instruction? How about putting your quizzes on Achievement Series? How about Quia?
• Excited children = an excited teacher: How about a new activity that doesn’t suck the time out of your day? For example, how about a Wordle activity? A Big Huge Labs activity?
• Balance the yoke: Imagine teaching a lesson together with somebody and sharing planning? I love that look on teachers’ faces, after meeting in my office and planning a lesson/unit together (I’ll get this/do this; you get that/do that) and finally co teaching the lesson together, that excited expression and comment, “THAT was FUN! And they learned so much!”
• Think out of the box: there are many things that I can check out from IRC to use, such as a set of Flip Cams, Digital Cameras, Digital Voice Recorders, and the like. Wondering what to do with them? I’ll show you!
• Make something: a student’s face lights up when s/he produces a product and it is visible to others. How about a Voicethread? A Photo Story project?
• Ask for ideas: even if it sounds farfetched, you never know if you don’t ask. Just recently I was giving ideas on how to redo a classroom to help motivate students, gave ideas for a fraction activity outside, etc.

And most of all,
• LAUGH! No matter how bad it can seem, laughter makes you feel better. For example, how about watching funny videos, such as this couple?

or, how about laughter to reduce stress, as this bride did?

Whatever the case, focus on the positive and let me know how I can help!

What’s Your Passion?

CaptureWhat is that one thing (or more) that gives you that energy—that drive—that passion– that gives you a kick of energy to finish when you’re exhausted and tired? Or, what is it that charges your batteries? What passion do you bring to the classroom/office/work environment?

In the present day of accountability (think 100% of children in the country will pass standardized tests in 2014), one might be tempted to throw up their hands, or sit at their desks in a catatonic state, unable to produce any cognitive functions and mumble. What can one do to light that fire? Silvia Tolisano in Langwitches writes about this and I recommend to take some time and read about passion:

I am realizing that Angela has stumbled upon (or has strategically moved towards) THE NEW FORM of how we learn:
• Together (on a large scale)
• Global
• Across age, gender, time and physical boundaries
• Virtually
• As part of a whole
• Connected
• As part of a discussion
• Contributing our experiences
• Discussing and reflecting
• Participatory

During one of my recent building sweeps, I came around the corner and saw a first grader working with a para and wished I had my camera for that “Kodak moment”: she had apparently been struggling with a math concept, and suddenly, out of nowhere, the “light bulb” came on and she GOT IT. Her face lit up like a halogen light, glowing, and she explained, “I UNDERSTAND!” I stood there and thought, “That’s why we do what we do.” My batteries were charged again.

What’s your passion/battery charger?

What’s Right with Education Today in Spite of AYP?

Presentation1There are times I wonder how much longer my sanity will hold when I hear the phrase, “Raise test scores.” I envision a hole in the wall, a la Bugs Bunny cartoon, where I’ve run out, and as you peer through the hole at me, my arms are flailing in the air wildly as I run—and my wits are finally fried. Is this what teaching has become? Moreover, with the latest government push to tie evaluations with test scores, one can only wonder when a mass of teachers will be making their own holes in the walls, running madly down the street as stress has overwhelmed them. Just the other day, for example, I thought of the power this gives students—I don’t like Mrs. Sally Teacher, so, voila, I’ll just not do well so she’ll get fired! Then it hit me: negativity was gaining hold.

I’ve pondered what to write for the Back-to-School post, and my first intuition was to post resources for the first week. Or, maybe I could introduce a new initiative from our department. How about a cool website? Hmmmm. Or, how about what is right about education? How about a dose of what will encourage from within, so as the year begins, our batteries get recharged? I do much better when I’m encouraged than when I’m threatened. Encouragement gives me the willingness to go farther, to push harder, and to not give up. Students need to be led by somebody who is looking out for the good and not in fear of the Testing Gods.

When you have 22 minutes, take time to watch this video about what’s right with the world from a photographer with National Geographic. Take moments this year to sit, relax, and reflect on what’s RIGHT in your classroom. Keep a supply of this to help recharge your batteries when they seem totally void of any power! What “pictures” are you going to take this year? Happiness can be infectious! All of a sudden, before we realize it, raising test scores won’t seem quite as tough and overwhelming when there is a focus on the joys of teaching!

Picture 342[A side note of an example of what I found right while working in the mountains of China–a picture I took in the market place of a mother and her child. Note the joy!]

Wanted: Encouragement

Checking the statistics of this blog, one of the top hits are the tags on encouragement. Statistically speaking, that must be a big need of all of us. Who doesn’t want to feel a part of a group, to feel needed, to feel that boost during stressful times?

While sitting at the lunch table today, a colleague leaned over, shock registered on her face, and gasped, “Did you hear that has been shooting at [the high school two blocks from where we sat]?!?” One of the adults leaped from the table to rush to the school to check on the health of her daughter. We can think of Columbine, but “it” will never happen near us. My first thought was, “What brings somebody THAT much pain that they must make others hurt as much?” What if we (schools) could intervene somehow before it comes to this?

It hit home for me, for I was a bullied and miserable kid in school. School equaled pain. The happiest day in my eighteen years was the day that I graduated from high school. Life began when I walked out those doors the last time. How often I walked the halls just wanting to belong. The worst day, I remember, was the time the PE teacher had everyone pick teams and I was the last one picked. Standing there, humiliated, and the two captains said with others laughing, “Well, I sure don’t want him!” The teacher then said, “OK, boy–why not start walking and get as far away from the baseball field as you can get!” Last summer I was able to bury some axes and forgive, but not everyone is able to. What can teachers do to make their classrooms havens of safety? I saw one study on line that has good and strong advice:

Schools and programs that embody an encouraging attitude follow six practices (Carlson, Sperry, & Dinkmeyer, 1992). Such programs:
• Make relationships a priority;
• Conduct respectful dialogue;
• Practice encouragement daily;
• Make decisions through shared involvement (classroom meetings);
• Resolve conflicts;
• Have fun on a regular basis.

Note the last line: have fun on a regular basis. Although technology can’t be used all the time, I know, it can be used effectively as a resource to review for upcoming SOL tests. It can give that shy kid a chance to interact with the lesson by texting answers on the ActivExpressions or ActiVotes. The student, ready to lose his mind over a boring video or worksheet, can help design his learning with activities such as a Learning Menu, producing a video, working on a class Wiki, or other sundry activities that meets his needs (differentiated instruction!). He can get a different slant on a lesson by spreading a blanket out on the lawn to study with a group of friends for an upcoming test. Imagine sitting out in the hallway or cafeteria for class just for something different. Discuss rhythm in a poem by banging a beat on the desks in the room. Coteach with another teacher and have FUN with the lesson.

What made the Ron Clarks of teaching stand out? Each one of the above.

I doubt that at my funeral, should any former students speak, that they will speak in wistful tones of, “I’ll never forget the difference he made in my life by teaching me test taking strategies!” or “My life was never the same after I realized that the an adverb answers why or how!!!” They’ll remember the steps suggested above.

Why not end on a laugh? Have you seen what people are like after getting their wisdom teeth taken out? Youtube’s Funniest Anesthesia Videos or Hiccups lead to laughing fit