Friday, September 5, 2014

Year 5: Week 1 - Blue Hat, Green Hat

This is the introduction I gave for our first department meeting of the year.

I’ve really enjoyed reading books to Ollie over the summer break. He’s starting to recognize books and he will bring a book over for me to read to him, which is adorable. One of his favorite books is “Blue Hat, Green Hat,” by Sandra Boynton. It has a theme in it that I feel really resonates with our experiences at this school. Let me read this book to you.

Think about the turkey. He’s wearing clothing the wrong way throughout the book, but he’s not really disturbed about this fact. In the end of the book he’s the one who happily plunges into the pool while everyone looks on with envy.

In every class we teach, there’s a few turkeys. Sometimes it’s a student who picks up a tambourine and plays it in an unconventional way. Other times it’s a students who figures out a way to use a music app on an iPad in a way that we don't expect.  Sometimes these students are being distracting and are purposely being contrary, but most of the time these students are being creative in ways that we don’t predict.  Take time when these moments arise to consider what this student is doing. Maybe he or her creative way of looking at an instrument will teach the whole class something important and meaningful.

As teachers, we are turkeys every day. We teach in one of the most progressive schools in the state. Our approach to students, curriculum, instruction and assessment makes us look like a turkey to the vast majority of the teachers in America. As people are moving towards more standardized testing and common core standards, we are focusing on helping students learn through group projects and progressive teaching activities.

Even within our department I’ve been a part of conversations that make us look like turkeys within our school. We’ve talked about getting rid of the chairs in the lower school music room, utilizing technology in the middle school band program in new ways and creating different and innovative ways to help our students experience music.

Ultimately being a turkey, trying new things, and going against assumptions is where creativity and the most meaningful learning occurs. We value this in our students but sometimes the fact that this looks like a turkey putting a shoe on his head makes it not clear that something truly creative is happening.

So next time a students does something in an unconventional way, pause before correcting them and think about how they are exploring and maybe even have a conversations with them so that they can explain their thinking.

Be brave, be a turkey. Don’t get bogged down by what has been done in the past or the way other people do things.  Focus more on "why not?" than "can not."  In these moments, be proud and don’t say “oops.”

Later in the year, I want you to share a story of when you observed one of your students being a turkey and a story of you being a turkey yourself.  I'm looking forward to a great year with all of you.

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