28 March 2008

holistic teaching

Even though there are moments when, as a teacher, I may want "calgone" to whisk me away in a speedboat or for "scotty {to} beam me up", the time with students in the classroom is short and precious. An average school day of instructional time is between five and six hours and an average number of days a child is in school for the school year is 185 days (that's out of a total of 365 days in a year, folks). Yes, a very short time indeed.

Hefty responsibilities are laid on the shoulders of schools--well, really, who am I kidding...of teachers--and it seems each year there is a greater focus on cognitive skills and left brain activities. Somewhere along the way, legislators have forgotten a few key items.

Humans are dynamic creatures, not static robots. One of the building blocks/corner stones of schools in this country was to create/train future factory workers. Standing in lines, sitting in rows, responding to bells--training for the future as a worker. We still need to know these skills. It helps keep society from complete chaos. Our society has moved far beyond just needing "factory workers" though. We need people who are not only educated in language, logic, and sequences, but who are also educated in creativity, empathy, and social intelligence. The current "winds" of education are focusing the curriculum and teaching methods with all business and no sense of playfulness. They don't permit the inner child of the teacher or the student to "play at work". Competency is what students are tested on each year. If we, as teachers, could also be allowed time to teach imagination and creativity we would have students who are not merely competent, but remarkable.

The pendulum of education is slow to change. I have been asking myself as an educator what is possible to work into any current classroom system of learning. Something that all educators, at home as well as in classrooms, can accomplish. Something which may seem small and insignificant at first but can have a rippling effect. I do know that the "extra" lesson plans I create and "slip" into the classroom make a difference. I have witnessed it--it's powerful and empowering. I have been lucky enough to have an administration backing my goals. But I was thinking of little things students, teachers, and parents could do to cultivate caring, empathy, creativity, and joy internally, for themselves and others.

Over the past few days, I have read or come across three different sites on the internet that have inspired me.

Every Sunday one of my personal joys is to read the Post Secret blog. For some reason it grounds me, reminds me to put things into perspective, that we are not alone in our secrets and thoughts.

Andrea, an educator in Oregon, was inspired by Keri Smith's book to leave paper fortunes around her town for random strangers to find. She has a wonderful and motivating blog entry about her excellent adventures in this project.

I came across a service training video (so sorry I don't remember where I first linked to it) in my flitting around the internet like a bee in a field of flowers. I don't know if it was a dip in hormones or just thinking about how to create an internal blooming of compassion in students, but this video was brilliant.

So, my rough, big idea is to have students make similar positive statements, fortunes, sayings, but a bit more artistic and colorful (maybe paint a bit of wet-on-wet first), and leave them in desks (student's, teacher's, principal's, parent's), books in the classroom library, on lunch trays, to clerks or waitresses--you get the idea. Maybe a field trip out of it to another school or nursing home... Of course, my lesson will be much more complex and detailed, with environmental issues of littering and appropriate words/phrases to be used. Giving honor to and deepening the experience by journaling will be wonderful. Of course a classroom debriefing/sharing in a circle on the floor is the ultimate culmination.

I'm off to start writing this idea into a solid plan.

{Added 30 March 2008: Judy Lee and Shawn Liu over at "five and a half" --the moniker of both their fabulous blog as well as design studio-- have created a jar of wisdom, containing bits of wisdom, wishes, and fortunes. Oh, do go check it out!}

{Added 02 April 2008: Rosa Murillo is a gifted artist who started "Found Art Tuesdays", yet another form of guerrilla art, spreading good will through leaving small pieces of art for others to find. Rosa's journal can be found here. I encourage you to visit her inspiring sites.}


sophanne said...

yes yes yes

Gotta Knit! said...

Great links.

Have often thought to much value is put on those stupid tests. The teachers are forced to drill that info into students so that they may score higher on the one test. But what really does that teach them? It seems to me it only teaches the students to do well on that one test and nothing in the big scheme of education.

Rosa Murillo said...

Laurie, thanks so much for your comment on my blog. I think what you are doing is amazing and will definitely make a difference in these children's lives. Make them aware of people around them. It is a great project! and thanks also for the link!