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Monday, November 18, 2013

Creative Teaching in America

After 10 years of teaching, I reflect on the standards based education system I exist in. I say exist because I don't believe I truly have room to say that I teach in the system. I exist among a list of standards that must be taught. Data driven expectations that must be met. Non-negotiable texts that must be taught. Teaching strategies that must be implemented. Tests that must be given at both the state and district level. None of these is something that I can truly say I have the freedom to creatively implement.

Creativity is defined as the ability to transcend the traditional ideas, rules, pattens, relationships, or the like and to create meaninful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination: the need for creativity in modern industry; creativity in the performing arts.

The best teachers I ever had taught in a system that existed previous to standards based education. I learned. I enjoyed. I became and creative and critical thinker with a love of education and the desire to create creative learning experiences for future students just like I had.

As a teacher I miss the creativity of the language arts classroom. I miss watching and reenacting Shakespeare with my seniors. I miss trapsing through the jungle with Lord of the Flies. I miss challenging my honors students to look at the citizens of Brave New World and getting to see where we are terrifyingly headed as a nation. I miss reading, analyzing, and writing about poetry. I miss challenging my students to look a life through fiction. I miss instilling a love of SIMPLE READING. I'm hanging on with all my effort to bits and pieces of the cannon, however, it's becoming more and more clear that my students will only read bits and pieces of great literature but will be required to research the rest of the story and fill their minds with the ideas of what others thought the value (or not) of what the whole work really is rather than determining that for themselves.

While I realize this sounds very idealistic in a realistic society, I do strongly believe we need to take a step back and look at what we are offering our youth. Are we so focused on core classes that students are being prevented from applying those core skills in elective classes where they can see their value and then want to learn more? Or do we truly believe that core subject knowledge is of such importance that "elective" classes are worth minimizing/eliminating? Elective classes are where I decided what I wanted to do with myself. I learned through computer classes that I loved working with the Microsoft Office products (I use these daily both personally and professionally). I learned the math of fractions in woodshop class. In math class they just didn't make sense. I learned the importance of specific word choice in yearbook, not in English.

Some of the greatest minds and inventions of our time came not from the assembly line education structures of other nations, but rather from the creative experiences and opportunities of the pre-standards based education system of the United States of America.

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