Saturday, May 05, 2007
Straightjackets for creative teachers.
A picture says more than a 1000 words!
A creative teacher.
It is no fun being a creative teacher in what is essentially a conformist education system - the more so as you move up the levels of schooling. It is to creative teachers however we need to look to if we are ever to change the current focus from achievement to realizing the diverse talents of all students.
Creative teachers focus on developing whatever talents their students have, where possible, through collaborative integrated programmes. This however is in conflict with the, so called, current 'best practice' 'scripted strategies' that focus on literacy and numeracy - imposed to solve the poor 'achievement tail'.
Teachers have always had two important qualities they need to preserve - their time and their energy and, all too often, both are wasted on endless assessment and recording requirements focussing on narrow literacy and numeracy 'targets'. Even if they achieve their 'targets' it is the more creative self discovery learning teachers miss. It is this narrow focus that worries creative teachers.
This reductionist, fragmented, measurement, audit culture' approach is destructive to teacher creativity which relies on professional judgement in an atmosphere of trust and support. And the mantra of 'evidence based teaching' is equally not conducive to imaginative expression or any creative endeavour where what eventuates is a process of intellectual evolution. Not everything can be 'evidenced' or measured - even if teachers had the time! This is not to say that creative teachers do not assist their students , far from it, they are continually interacting to challenge and assist but at heart they want all their students to express their own individuality. This is formative assessment at its best and the results of such creative teaching are best assessed by what their students can perform , exhibit , or demonstrate.
Creative teachers, like their students are active meaning makers and creators who have the confidence to have faith in their own choices - and always willing to do it better 'next time'. They believe, like good scientists or artists, in 'enlightened trial and error'.
A quick look at many classrooms with show, that even in the field of art, due to an obsession with pre-planed learning intentions, criteria and exemplars all the art work seems, while technically efficient, mediocre and and cloned.
Too many current imposed initiatives , while introduced in good faith , and often with good results ( until they wear off), inadvertently de-professionalize teaching. If national standardized testing were to be imposed then this would further de-professionalize teachers and lead to an even greater narrowing of the curriculum and, in particular, creativity.
At a time when politicians are realizing it is the quality of the individual teacher that makes the biggest difference any de-professionalizing would be a shame - that is unless they want teachers to conform to, so called, imposed 'best practices'.
This standardizing of teaching comes just as the demeaning 'one size fits all' effects of traditional education are beginning to be comprehended by those in the Ministry and, as well such formulaic teaching is in conflict with the current 'buzzwords' of the need to 'personalizing' learning.
Providing personalised learning will require creative talented teachers who can tailor learning to their individual student needs. Everything should be done to create the conditions for their expertise to be recognised and shared within and between schools.
The development of a creative teaching profession , able to tap into an amplify the talents of all students, will be vital if New Zealand is ever to develop into a creative and prosperous country. Students relate well to teachers who trust and value them - and the same applies to teachers.
We still have chance in New Zealand to transform our education system into a truly creative 21st century one. It seems teachers are not so lucky in the USA where a recent report indicated that the obsessive emphasis on literacy and numeracy, to solve poor achievement, had resulted in students missing out on problem solving, reasoning, relevant content and the creative arts.
Recently , after being awarded 'Teacher of the Year' by President Bush, a recipient said afterwards that they didn't want a nation of narrow test takers but a 'nation of thinkers'. It is possible, she continued, to keep the 'magic of teaching' alive but, to do so, things would have to change.
We have a better chance in New Zealand, I would think!
But only if we re-imagine our schools, throw of the 'straight jackets' and get serious about creativity.