How Not To Get Your Soul Sucked Out As A Teacher

Forgive me while I rant today...

I just started reading the updated edition of Sark's New Creative Companion: Ways to Free Your Creative Spirit.  On page 7, she describes how in first grade she "began to invent illnesses so [she] could stay home from school and read, write and create.  One year [she] missed 92 days."


Flashback to summer... 

I spent a lovely 8 weeks getting ready to ROCK this school year.  I mean, ROCK IT.  I read books on creativity and choice:  Shift This by Joy Kirr about getting kids more engaged by getting them to own learning at school; Unstuck:  52 Ways to Get and Keep Your Creativity Flowing at Home, at Work and In Your Studio by Noah Scalin (Where the heck is school in that title?!), which has tons of fun ideas to inspire passion - to get you out of your rut;  and How To Be An Explorer of the World by Keri Smith, about living more wide-awake lives by noticing the world around us.   

I also attended ILA and went to session after session that emphasized the importance of getting to know students as individuals and then helping them to cultivate the talents and strengths they already have.  Two highlights were:  Sara Ahmed's talk about identity and the importance of telling your story and Peter Johnston sharing two essential things we must teach kids:

1.  Be a noticer.
2.  Teach others to be independent learners.

Then I headed to AVID's Summer Institute in Minneapolis where again the focus was on giving kids the tools to own their own learning and ultimately their own destinies.  Two videos that we watched really hit this idea home for me (if you have not seen these, just stop reading this and go watch them. For real; they're much better than this blog post.):

1.  TMB Panyee FC
2.  Kids Can Teach Themselves 

The message all summer was clear:  


And then I went back to school and it was all percentages and data.  Measurable goals. Progress Monitoring.  Data Teams.  Teacher Evaluation Criteria.  Numbers invaded my eyeballs and flooded my brain.  

Kids-first, creativity and empowerment got wide eyes, packed their bags and ran to a safe, dark closet in the back of my brain, hiding out like their lives depended on it.

The problem with this "numerical approach" to education? Kids are humans. They are not numbers. Or letters. Or levels.  They're not any coding system we choose to label them with.

They are creative life-forces.  And they want to be allowed to exist for real, expressing their own unique humanity; they do not want be known as test scores housed in a never-ending data warehouse.  

So, yesterday I decided that I have to create my own weather. This soul is not going down. My daughter (the one who would rather lock herself in her room so she can draw all day and only gets in trouble at school when she sneaks her book under her desk to read for a while) and I headed to the library armed with big totes to fill with books.  My choices?

-  Sark's New Creative Companion by Sark
-  Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon
-  Shut Your Monkey:  How To Control Your Inner Critic and Get More Done by Danny Gregory
-  InGenius by Tina Seelig

And then we went to Lowe's and I bought a door so I could create an art table in my office. When I write and plan lessons, I want all my creative toys close by so I'll remember that Times New Roman on the computer is death to the soul but oil pastels are life.  

And today, I might just go test drive that adorable sky-blue Volkswagen Beetle convertible that I keep drooling over while chauffeuring my kids to school in our minivan.  

Cuz you know what?  Teachers aren't numbers either, and I want to keep my soul.

Bye-bye, Monkeys.


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