I blog as a reflective practice. I blog to dialogue with colleagues. I blog to share ideas and I blog because I enjoy writing. But, I have a confession. I also blog because I enjoy seeing the final product. I enjoy the sense of accomplishment and the feedback, knowing that in some way–and by some people–my thoughts and opinions are valued. For me, blogging is about creative expression…an opportunity to produce something and share it with the world. You may not see why, or agree with my reasoning, but I am proud of my work – a feeling that I believe every student, in every classroom, deserves to experience.
At the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development’s (ASCD) 2011 conference, I attended several sessions that addressed enhancing student creativity and helping kids learn by applying their knowledge to real-world problems. I don’t think it is possible for us, as educational leaders, to overemphasize these two skills. 21st Century students should be problem solvers, producers, collaborators, publishers, difference makers…and proud of their contributions.
One keynote address at the conference focused on creativity in the classroom and was given by illustrator and author, Peter Reynolds. Mr. Reynolds has illustrated the children’s book series, Judy Moody, and has written and illustrated books such as The Dot, and Ish. He spoke about how educator’s can foster creativity in their students, emphasizing the importance of making a conscious effort to learn about their individual talents and interests. According to Mr. Reynolds, the most important question we can ask our students is: who are you? In addition, he outlined four follow-up questions to help us gain a deeper understanding of student (or adult, for that matter) goals/interests:
- Where have you been?
- Where are you going?
- Where are you now?
- Where would you like to be going?
Mr. Reynolds emphasized that this type of guidance and encouragement from a teacher contributes to what he calls the North Star Effect – one may only need to change a student’s life direction by one degree to have a huge impact (think of a ship’s heading and the difference one degree will make over a lengthy trip). This is great advice for all teachers to keep in mind–small things can make a significant difference.
In the book Ish, Mr. Reynolds describes a young boy, named Ramon, who lacks confidence in his ability to draw a vase. Can you think of any students who struggle with self-esteem when it comes to a content, concept or skill? Ramon’s fortunes and confidence make a dramatic improvements after his younger sister describes his drawing as “vase-ISH.” After this, Ramon begins to view his drawings in a different light and allows ISH-like drawings to set him free from previous constraints and notions about the quality of his work. One small comment, an affirmation of sorts, made a significant difference for Ramon–the North Star Effect.
Although the book is fiction, the premise is very real, and the lessons valuable. Near the end of his presentation, Mr. Reynolds encouraged the audience to make students promise not to “let anyone squish their ISH or the ISHes of the ISHful around them.”
As a teacher, or school leader, are you an ISH squisher, or do you encourage ISH-fulness? Give kids (and adults) time to pursue their interests, encourage them to be creators, and allow them to make a difference. The results will be remarkable-ISH.
If you would like to know more about Peter Reynolds, check out his Guide for Using The Dot and Ish in the classroom.
cc image: Stereoscopic rhizoming lines by Joël Evelyñ & François