Last night I had the amazing opportunity to watch Sir Ken Robinson speak at Millersville University. I left speechless. If you are unfamiliar with his work, please go here and here and here.
There are so many thoughts running through my head at the moment I'm not exactly sure I can write anything that will do his talk justice. I'm wishing I would've wrote this post last night when I got home instead of sleeping. I do want to highlight just a few points that Sir Ken made that stuck with me and will cause me to rethink my classroom and department.
1. How do you run an organization that is adaptable to change and flexible? One that is creative? One that keeps up with change and stimulates change? Public education needs to be this way. One point that he made, and that I agree with, is that schools are all about conformity. All students take the same classes at the relatively the same time and are expected to get the same grade. Schools need to allow students to explore their interests and creativity so that they can find their element. This will require schools to adapt to the students it educates rather than the students adapting to the schools they attend. There are many steps that need to be taken for this to happen, and its certainly not something that will happen overnight. Can we as individual teachers do anything to support this process, even if the governing bodies do not officially embrace it? Sure.
2. NCLB is actually leaving everyone behind. Standardized testing is causing teachers across the country to mold their students into machines, learning processes but not thinking about what is going on. Usually, this is done in the most boring way possible. When students are looked at as data, they revolt. When they are looked at as individuals, they succeed. A political policy that was supposed to help education and increase our students knowledge is, in reality, taking away from their education because they are being forced to learn about things that they see no value in. They are not able to express their creativity because they are limited to what's on the test. Combine this with the decrease in public education funding and you lose those courses that engage students and stimulate their creativity and you keep the courses that are cut and dry.
3. We are reducing our funding for education increasing our funding for the correctional institutions. 1 in 31 people are in, waiting for sentencing, or being rehabilitated by a correctional facility. Not that those two statistics are directly related, but its interesting to think about.
4. Personalizing education helps people realize their talents. Every attempt to personalize education has failed. Standardized tests de-personalize the educational experience. This was really the subject of his entire talk.
5. By narrowing the curriculum, we are implying that life is linear; that we all will follow the same path. In truth, life is organic; its constantly changing and adapting to surroundings. Let's teach our students how to make these adaptations rather than telling them what to do and where they should be. Let them discover what they are good at and what they are interested in, and let's foster it. If we tell them what to learn and how to learn it and don't move off of the curriculum that is set for 'everyone,' how will they ever learn their place in life? There are plenty of people in the world that are good at what they do, but don't truly enjoy it. Let's have our students graduate ready to pursue a career that they are good at AND love.
6. Myths - 1. Only special people are creative. 2. You are either creative or your not. 3. Special things are required to be creative. 4. You can't teach creativity.
7. As teachers, we are like gardeners and our students are our plants. Gardeners don't grow plants; plants grow themselves. Our job is to provide the optimal conditions for growth. Beautiful analogy.
8. The risk we take in margenalizing our students is greater than the risk of letting them be creative and grow.
9. "I'm not what's happened to me, I'm what I chose to become" - Carl Young
Of course, these are not my original thoughts. They are all from the great Sir Ken Robinson. He said so much more and was extremely informative and insightful, but these are just a few of the points that stuck with me and will guide my classroom from now on.