Wednesday, September 17, 2014

We all have issues, right?






"In the 21st Century, recess will only exist as a means of structured instruction.  Macaroni will only be whole wheat, and never glued to paper.  Instrumental music, in some schools, will be available only via iphone.  Libraries will be viewed by some as unnecessary -- "everyone has access to the internet." Drama will be reserved to re-enactments of cyberbullying incidents on social media. Instruction will be designed with a specific intent -- to past a standardized test.  In short, creativity will be unnecessary and intrusive in the educational process."

I wish these words were from a science fiction novel.  Sadly, they are not.

The Te@chthought #reflectiveteacher challenge prompt for Day 17 has  stumped me for most of the day.   It is 9:30 pm, and I am finally putting thoughts into words, after rejecting multiple responses, most of which seemed trite, or too political, or were too downright depressing.  You see, as a teacher, I feel a responsibility to offer hope instead of despair.  

Day 17

What do you think is the most challenging issue in education today?

 Time.  There is never enough.  The older I get, the more quickly it passes.  (Except during in-service days, when time not only stands still, it sometimes runs backwards.)   As a result of this rapid pace, and the increasing demands on the time of teachers to complete content beyond measure between September and June each year, eliminations and cutbacks were inevitable.   Without waxing political about school funding, property taxes (the means for much of the funding for education in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania), and NCLB, the 21st century has placed the crosshairs squarely on the target of one crucial, yet perceived dispensable, aspect of education - CREATIVITY.  

Yes.  The single, most challenging issue in education today is convincing politicians, parents, and everyone who will listen, that without creativity, we are a  society at risk.  We've structured our kids so much, that they don't know how to play.  I'm not wearing my fuddy-duddy old person hat here.  This isn't about technology creating mindless meat puppets* out of the youngest generation.  This is about the adults who think that kids don't need to learn how to explore their world without structure.

CREATIVITY by our children

Students aren't encouraged to write creatively -- they are taught to write to a prompt.  To form thoughts to defend an opinion.  No character or plot development, no silly rhymes or imagination.  Instead they are challenged to draw on prior knowledge and write about something in which they have little knowledge or interest.

CREATIVITY in lesson planning


Remember Johnny Appleseed?  Sprouting a seed in a wet paper towel, making applesauce in the classroom in the fall?  Johnny has hit the trail.  With the saucepan on his head, he's headed down the dusty road, with no hit of cinnamon wafting through the classroom.  No time for Johnny, or many of his friends.  I'm fairly certain that there will be far fewer sightings of five-fingered hand turkeys this holiday season.

CREATIVITY in teaching

 Some elementary teachers are teaching from newly-acquired curriculum.  The trend is for a "tried and true" scripted program.  The teachers are told what to say, how much time to allot for each response, and when and how to wrap up the "learning" with a pre-designed summary activity.  The same lesson is happening in each and every classroom with little to no variation based upon passion or strengths of the individual teachers.

This attack on creativity, this unwillingness to recognize the importance of interpersonal connections, artistic expression, creative play, storytelling, and other free exploration experiences is the greatest challenge facing education today.  Creativity has gradually gotten lost in this thing called "education." 

The world needs more limericks, silly fairy tales, playground games with confusing rules that are made up on the fly, kazoos and fingerpaint.

Glue and paint are an important part of the educational process.  Perhaps the next meeting of the Education Committee in Harrisburg or Washington DC could be held on a playground somewhere.  And the new regulations or laws written in rhyme in fingerpaint.




 *Shout out to Joey.

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