Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Creative classrooms Rule!

From My Side of the Desk
Creative classrooms Rule!
Creativity can be found in, well, in the most creative places. The other day I was surfing through my msn.com Homepage and came across this teaser headline from money.msn.com, “9 Strange Things Thieves Steal.” Because a shelf of this detergent was the first picture I saw, I expected a joke about a super-hip plexi-glass table top supported by Tide containers perched in a $5.3 million dollar Tribeca loft on an episode of Selling New York. I clicked on the link (http://money.msn.com/investing/c_galleryregular.aspx?cp-documentid=250562553).

Much to my utter shock, Tide is considered liquid gold (money.msn.com) by in-the-know shoplifters who burn rubber racing their shopping carts out of stores with gallons and gallons of this detergent which they sell all over this country and overseas! My first response was, “What? Tide fanatics can’t buy their own jug at a cheaper rate on sale, with a coupon, at a discount store? The rest of the list was equally outrageous. Check out these Filchers’ Favs detailed in the Money article:

1. Tide
2. Chicken wings
3. Human hair
4. Gold teeth
5. Hay
6. Driveways (those with brick, stone and decorative concrete pavers)
7. Pure maple syrup
8. Cloth napkins (from restaurants)
9. Truck tailgates
After reading this list which, unfortunately, offered very few reasons why these items made thieves salivate in the paragraph accompanying each picture, my second thought, which obliterated the first, was, “How did we teachers miss harnessing that off-the-charts creativity for the betterment of humankind?”

Simply put, teachers can’t teach absentee students. The juvenile delinquents serving a minimum of 6-9 months in a reform school where I taught were quick to inform me that they were, “too cool for school.” Learning how to read and write, two basic life skills, didn’t even earn a place on their My Goals wish lists. Quick money, cool clothes, and eye-turning wheels won them the social respect that they yearned for, not a diploma or a Proficient rating on a standardized test.
Too many students still reiterate this “too cool for school” philosophy. Instructors fully grasp the fact that their number one task is to give these kids a reason to wake up and drag themselves into their classrooms. Only then can teachers lure them into learning
and away from the call of the streets. School administrators and those people they answer to need to comprehend that only hooking students’ minds and curiosity will accomplish this first step to learning, something a proficient score on a state test will never, ever do.

Teachers already have the bait:
1. Engaging lessons that offer students chance after chance after chance to answer the question, “For what reason was I born?” that all young people feel at one time or another,
2. Welcoming and safe environments,
3. Adults who truly care about them, and
4. Peers who will motivate them to value their golden minds and abilities over the quick buck for a sold on the black market, stolen gold watch.

Teachers must be allowed to inspire their charges with the stories of Odysseus (The Odyssey Homer), the three doctors, Sampson Davis, George Jenkins and Rameck Hunt, whose lives are detailed in their book, The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise and Fulfill a Dream and which lead to their foundation with the “mission to inspire and motivate youth through education,” (http://threedoctors.com/the-foundation/), and Scout (To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee) who realized that good can come from some people deemed unworthy by society and malevolence from others those same people esteem.

Lessons showing why a Mentos will make a bottle of Coke overflow, how geometry can lead to a career as the next Top Design Star, and why the undesirable blasts from the past are bound to repeat themselves if their historical relevance isn’t understood will hook students. When teachers are able to concentrate on what to present to their charges and how to do this instead of on the data they are told is more important, they will hook students into becoming life-long learners.

Teaching that engages, inspires and stimulates young minds and hearts will show students that they are not alone in their quest for a meaningful life, one where dreams can come true. Practice exams and insisting that teachers focus on the material on a test instead of on ways to open students’ minds so they can reason, analyze and synthesize what they learn will never, ever keep classroom seats full and halls echoing with academic enthusiasm.

Combining students’ knowledge from history, science, math, business classes and each and every course offering with the time to express their thoughts, ideas, feelings and aspirations in writing will arouse these AWOL (Absent Without Learning) kids to invent the next super-selling but economically-priced detergent, a locking tailgate or inexpensive but natural-looking synthetic hair instead of wanting to steal them. Oh, and this type of teaching will insure Proficient ratings, too.

Wouldn’t you rather read a story about how Bubba, who sat in the back of the class staring out the window, figured out how to harness solar power cheaply enough for every person to afford in their homes and cars and think, “Wow! Some teacher harnessed his off-the-charts creativity for the betterment of humankind,” than to sigh sadly because he was caught stealing two flats of chicken wings worth over $65,000.00?

I sure would.


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