Want a New Year’s Resolution?

It’s a busy time. How’s that for understatement?  I had intended to write a quick “Thank You” for all of the support you’ve shared as I continue to use this forum to explore my thinking on what education and learning mean at this time in our history.

I’ve been surprised and humbled by the responses and comments you’ve shared over the past year. My deepest thanks and wishes for a holiday time filled with love, peace, relaxation, and re-creation.

A small gift and a thought

As an intro to a post that I wanted to share with you in this season of reflection and resolution, here’s little lesson in kids being kids.

Since you obviously couldn’t resist the temptation to respond to the notification that Rethinking Learning hadn’t yet shut down for the break, I want to share a smile and then a challenge.  The smile comes from a little clip I saw this morning about the various ways in which the joys of the season manifest themselves. The challenge comes from a post  I read yesterday morning from William Parker. I think you’ll enjoy it and I’d highly recommend his site and his podcasts.

First the smile… maybe even a guffaw.

 

Parker’s piece is about creativity and he begins it with a quote from Maya Angelou.

“…We are all creative, but by the time we are three or four years old someone has knocked the creativity out of us. Some people shut up the kids who start tell stories. Kids dance in their cribs, but someone will insist they sit still. By the time the creative people are ten or twelve, they want to be like everyone else.”

Parker begins his post with a story about one of his students, Jesse, and his irrepressible creativity. It’s a fun read and I’m sure that many of us have had experiences in school with our own Jesse. I was struck by how fortunate Jesse was to have an adult in his school life who nurtured that creativity. In Parker’s second anecdote he relates an experience he had with his son on a long road trip. After miles of prolonged boredom, Parker offers his son the opportunity to create a podcast about their trip. I won’t spoil it with a bad summary.

One of the interesting things about aging is I’ve noticed that, at some point, I began to spend more time looking backwards and less time thinking about the future. I’ve been reflecting on my own experiences as parent, grandparent, teacher, and school leader.

Just a year after our marriage, my wife and I were surprised by the arrival of twin girls. Let me be clear. We weren’t surprised that we had a baby. We were very surprised that we had two of them! I was starting my first teaching job and we realized quickly that we would need more money. Thus began a number of years of juggling one teaching job and usually one, sometimes two, part-time jobs. Bottom line… In many ways I missed my kids’ pre-school years. As our kids grew, married and relocated, we also didn’t have regular contact with our grandchildren.

Fast forward to a new marriage and a new family. Five new grandkids, all under 10. All live nearby and I’m learning something new each time I see them… something new about them and something new about myself. I’m seeing what Maya Angelou described… They are creative. They tell stories. They draw. They dance in their cribs. They are blessed. They have parents who listen to and encourage their stories. They have parents who fill their spaces with experiences and tools for exploration, for drawing and for cutting and pasting. They have parents who allow them to dance in their cribs when bedtime has come too soon.

I largely missed the wonder, the curiosity, the creativity in my own kids that I’m blessed to see now. For the most part, I taught older kids. While the boundaries I created for my students were frequently broader and more flexible than many of my peers, I still reined them in, sought to help them prepare for the “adult” world. I saw the specialness of wonder and creativity in some kids and marveled at it, while never quite looking at my own role in nurturing that in all students.

Parker ends his pieces with a “Let’s Wrap This Up” section. Here’s a paragraph from this morning’s post:

“What’s the takeaway for school leaders? We have an amazing opportunity to encourage creativity and innovation among our teachers and students. But that initiative first begins with those of us who are leading them. Schools cannot be places that “knock the creativity” out of others. If we’re going to encourage cultures of innovation and risk-taking, we must be willing to try first.”

Too often the reflex response of adults is, for the best of intentions, to help the child fit into an adult world, a world where, unfortunately, creativity is the exception. Parker asks the critical question of us as school leaders: How often are we willing to model the kind of creativity and risk-taking we want to see in our {staff,] or our students? (Addition mine)

Be well. Do good work. Keep in Touch

3 thoughts on “Want a New Year’s Resolution?

  1. Thank you, Rich, for another year of sparking my own critical “rethinking” of the current state of learning in the public school I lead. Thank you for your dedication to sharing your experiences, thoughts, and opinions based on your lifetime of dedication to the educational process. All the best to you and your family this Holiday Season and good health, happiness, and prosperity in the New Year!

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  2. oh Rich! you never cease to amaze me with your thoughtfulness and sensitivity!!! and you were an amazing teacher….. coming into your class was a breath of fresh air! is it ok for me to share your blogs on my face book page? keep up the great work merry christmas to you and yours!

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