Sunday, March 27, 2005
A Cautionary tale!
The magic of creativity!
I have just read a fascinating article on the web, from USA Today 25/03/05, about a documentary called ‘A Touch of Greatness’, of which the writer Bruce Kluger says, ‘can teach us all a lesson or two – and perhaps guide us as we talk about reforming our education system.’
The documentary chronicles the career of author educator Albert Cullum about his stint of teaching as an elementary school teacher in the 60s and paints a portrait of the ‘magic that transpires when kids are lucky enough to land a teacher who understands the limitlessness of the young mind.’
‘Engaged, enthusiastic and wickedly creative’, Cullum learned early in his career that, ‘If I’m not having fun, no one is having fun.’ Cullum involved his class in a range of creative and imaginative activities that would be familiar to similarly creative New Zealand teachers.
Kluger writes that the creative ideas of Cullum , ‘serve as a cautionary tale about our nations ( the USA ) current education system, and the way in which policy makers ongoing efforts to tinker with the process may be, at best, heavy handed or, at worst, wrongheaded.’
In a city like New York, that is talking about holding back students who aren’t keeping up with their classmates based on standardized testing on a narrow range of criteria ( literacy and numeracy), Cullum’s words are relevant : ‘ I see (the classroom) as a wagon. Your thoroughbreds of the class are going to pull the wagon- they’re the leaders. But everyone is on that wagon, and everyone reaches the goal. No one is left out.’
The documentary shows a teacher devoted to ‘giving each child the gift of believing in him or herself’.
Isn’t this what education is all about?
I wish I could say that all students leave New Zealand schools with this gift intact.
There may be lessons is this documentary for New Zealand policy makers?
If I were the Minister of Education I'd get creative!
Some of us have seen the New Zealand documentary, ‘In the Early World’, a film of a pioneer teacher working in similar era. For those who saw it was also a powerful reminder of the need for a teacher to see in students the, ‘limitlessness of the young mind’.
(Elwyn’s book, ‘In the Early World, has been reprinted and is available from the New Zealand Council for Educational Research.)