As I pondered how we could make a TV (knowing full well an electronic version was out of the question) I had a vision pop into my head. Maybe we could make one with a box? What would it look like? I knew it wouldn't be a true version of a TV, but something akin, and then the A-Ha moment hit.
In February of this year I had the very good luck of being sponsored by the NCCE (Northwest Council for Computer Education) to attend their annual Pacific Northwest tech conference (it ROCKS by the way). While there I was able to hear keynote speaker Kevin Honeycutt talk. I was connected with Kevin on Twitter (the GREATEST place to find teacher PLNs) but I wasn't prepared for his awe inspiring presentation. Turns out Kevin is a man of many skills: speaking, teaching, creating, mentoring, writing, just to name a few. Seriously, Kevin makes you want to be a better person!
I was eagerly listening to Kevin when a picture popped up on the ginormous screen: it was of a box of some sort, that young, school age Kevin had turned into a TV-esque book report. I remember it had knobs, and rollers of some sort. He turned the roller and the book report rotated through the front of the box. Duplicating a live TV show of the book in question.
I was mesmerized.
I thought it was the coolest idea, so unique, so simple, yet so creative...
I thought Kevin was about to talk about creativity or thinking outside of the box (or with a box :).
Instead he spoke of how he struggled through school, how he created his book report design only to be told later that it wasn't the "right" way: the way the teacher wanted it.
I was deflated. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Teachers teaching to the middle in a my-way or the highway fashion, running over creativity in the process. I could see why it happens: a teacher assigns a project, it has a rubric, a project presented doesn't match the rubric. Now what?
At that point...when faced with what to do (Do I follow the "rules" and deem it inappropriate even though it met the same end goal?) I would always default to human, as in, I'm not omnipotent and I don't pretend to be. Rather than channeling Darth Maul, who is unable to get past following a prescribed set of instructions (i.e. the rubric, the rules) and declaring full compliance is mandatory (as in no room for creativity~ the master is all powerful), I choose to channel Obi-Wan, able to take in information (the rules, the rubric), think about it (the TV-esque book report), ponder it (Damn, that's creative!) and respond with a positive mindset (This isn't what I imagined, it's even better).
I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt. I tend to believe that they are like me when it comes to teaching: they have an open mind, they differentiate, they acknowledge strengths and needs of students and provide appropriate instruction. They advocate for their students when needed, just as a parent would. When a student does something unexpectedly incredible they rejoice with full-on joy. When a student makes a mistake, as we all do, they respond with compassion and assistance. When a student does something disappointing (i.e. being unkind, or violent) they pause with sadness and then immediately begin to brainstorm ways to change the behavior to a positive. Most importantly, and in tandem, they reflect upon themselves and search for ways to grow. Knowing that, just like their students, they are never perfect, never finished, always a learner.
What I realized, from Kevin's extraordinary keynote (Did I mention how inspiring it was? EVERY school district should have Kevin present; I was THAT impressed.) is that these are not common traits amongst all teachers and that greatly saddens me. As a profession we need to be tasked to be listeners of our students, their lives, and their needs; this will help keep individuals from becoming invisible.
I use a new lens now... to look at teachers... one in which I am no longer naive. One in which I acknowledge that, as much as I'd like it to be true, not every teacher is flexible. Not every teacher is looking to grow from what their students can teach them. Not every teacher sees their self as merely another student in a different school (Life) from which to learn. And so as I finish dual summer learning camps, camps based on learning through nature & interest (project based), and reflect upon their incredible success to spark kids and teachers alike I hope to carry the torch forward. My only desire: to inspire flexibility and growth in others so that creativity is never stifled and students, all students, at all levels, feel successful.
Kevin--Thank you for inspiring me to do better, to be better, and to realize I can make a difference to so many. If you are ever this way, and enjoy towns with lots of cows, stop by and see us. And without further adieu, here are our Honeycutt inspired TVs. Rock On, Friend :)
Painting with our favorite colors.
The finished project. This one is called, "Me, Sierra, SiSi."
Sierra took pride in that hers is vertical rather than horizontal.
D's finished project is titled, "9 Little Monkeys."
It includes tree branches to propel the paper forward for viewing.
A hole in the back allows for highlight via flashlight.
Pride is evident. :)