Wednesday, March 16, 2016

New Zealand education:time to return to creative teachers for inspiration - revolution from the ground up ( Sir Ken Robinson)

Based on a visit to a colonial cottage

I have had the opportunity to drop off some material to local schools and it has made me think that it is time for schools to focus on and share the ideas of creative classroom teachers.

It does seem to me that far too much valuable time is spent on complying to requirements from those well removed from the reality of the classroom.  An emphasis on National Standards data comes to mind. And schools are spending too much time taking advice from people whose teaching experience is somewhat suspect.

Gordon Tovey
Made me think of some publications from the past that were based on sharing the creative ideas of real teachers. I am convinced that such creative teachers still inhabit current classrooms but that there inspirational work is not tapped and shared by other schools.

In 1976 I attended a 'The Creative Arts' conference  held in Dunedin and searched for, and found , my copy of the book. The presentation given by the then  National Adviser on art Gordon Tovey drew my attention.

In his presentation Gordon spoke of teachers being to concerned with the verbal and mathematical and not tapping into the students' creative and poetic  potential.

NZEI 1976
Gordon believed it important to draw on the inner personal world of the learner, and as well,  the importance of valuing the various creative artifacts - written, artistic and dramatic that students produce; the world of completed 
meaning.

 The artistic process is important but so are the finished results and that these ought to represent the diversity of their makers. These need to be valued and celebrated as they give children  meaningful growth and pride of achievement.
Quality observation

 This  is about doing things well and the need to learn techniques and skills in the process.

Gordon and his team of art advisers were seminal in spreading innovative integrated related arts programmes in the 60s and 70s .Perhaps the best known of these teachers was Elwyn Richardson whose book 'In The Early World' ( recently reprinted) remains an inspirational book. Another creative teacher of this era was Sylvia Ashton Warner.

Gordon listed his aims:

Quality achievements
Firstly, to foster through personal and individualised achievement , pride in , and confidence from tangible and rewarding accomplishments.


Secondly, to learn to work with others... to ensure satisfying collective statements.
Collective statement

Thirdly, to come to know and understand the environment, and through intuitive and imaginative powers of expression, become a responsive part of it.


Mastery of technique
Fourthly, to come to understand through aesthetic requirements the need to continually seek  mastery over tools, techniques and grammatical devises, and to value these as vital, essentials parts of expression.

And finally,through these to foster self reliance on firmly based ...attitudes and expressive abilities so as to enable the recurring challenges of change to be met as an inevitable part of growth

This still sounds great to me and easily aligned with the intent of the 2007 New Zealand Curriculum.

Find this book New Plymouth student observing
The art advisers were vital to spread creative teachers ideas. In  1978 the  advisers traveled New Zealand to collect information about creative teachers and published them in a  Department of Education publication 'Art In Schools'. If you can find a copy in your school shelves it is worth a reads.

In our province of Taranaki I worked with a group of teachers to implement the ideas above ( we are included in the book) combining ideas from Elwyn, Sylvia and Gordon Tovery plus an emphasis on   developing inquiry programmes and in turn developing stimulating room environments to celebrate students achievement
One teacher'a creativity - and his students

Several publications  were published  locally and acquired by other teachers at the time. The most impressive was 'A World Of Difference' by Bill Guild. Our work integrated ideas gained from experience and observations of innovative English Junior schools in 1969.
Learning to look

The point of this blog is to remind teachers that the best way to get great ideas about teaching is from fellow teachers in your own  own and other schools.

Visiting such teachers is the most powerful professional development of all.
A must have!!!

My advice is to search such teachers out and, as Sir Ken Robinson title of his latest book is subtitled says begin the 'Revolution from the Ground Up'.

There is no other way.

Imagine the time, skill and pride of achievement


The importance of doing fewer things well







7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Inspirational stuff Bruce. The trouble today is there is little or no sharing between schools and the contractual Ministry advisers come loaded with their agendas - or really the Ministrys. We now live in a conformist environment.

Bruce said...

I appreciate teachers live in a different world these days but I do know there are still inspirational teachers to be found. I guess the trouble is that since the advent of self managing schools there isn't the opportunities for cross fertilization. And, of course, there are no art advisers to do the identifying and sharing. 'Best practice' is now delivered to schools from on high. Somehow I don't the communities of schools will do the trick; collaboration and competition are an uncomfortable fit.

Bruce said...

Just before the implementation of Tomorrows Schools ( self managing schools) the Senior Inspector of Schools in our areas asked all schools to contribute what they had to offer in the way of expertise and any particular needs they had. The idea was to publish this and send to alk schools as a shared resource.

Still a great idea but no-one to organize it these days of competitive schools.

With modern ICT it would be so easy to do and update.

It was a great idea to validate and share the expertise of classroom teachers.

Tina Donnell said...

Bruce, you've introduced me to some inspirational reading material over the years. Back in 2010 I bought "Welcome to the Aquarium: A Year in the Lives of Children" by Julie Diamond, on the strength of your recommendation.
Your mention of "In the Early Years" in this post, sent me searching the library for a copy. Since it arrived I keep sneaking away to have a quiet read. Now I'm on the hunt for a copy of my own.
I can't believe I've been teaching all these years and never come across Elwyn Richardson before, not to mention Gordon Tovey and the book "Art in Schools, The New Zealand Experience". I can certainly see the influence of these educators in the type of experiences I had at North Shore Teachers College in the early 80's. After all these years, it's great to have the opportunity to read from some of the sources of that influence.
With Elwyn Richardson's writing, he provides such a window into the work of the children, it is like being there. This work is so relevant and inspiring.
Thank you for bringing the work of these educators to my attention.

Bruce said...

Thank you so much Tina for your generous comment. Sometimes I wonder who reads the blogs and more importantly, if they do, do they move from words to action. The 'aquarium' book was a great find for me and reinforces the vital role ( in earlier ways)that junior teachers played in developing student centred learning/teaching.

You can obtain Elwyn's book 'In the Early World' from the NZCER. The 'Art in Schools' book you may find gathering dust on the teacher's book shelf.

These days Sir Ken Robinson keeps alive the importance of a creative education but even he says a lot of people agree with him but few put the ideas into action.

My next blog will be about a book that carries on the tradition of student centered learning so watch this space.

I write my blog to keep alive the idea of a creative education and a comment like yours Tina keep up my enthusiasm. As Mark Twain once said he could live for three weeks on one compliment.

Tina Donnell said...

And I had already searched through some of your other posts and found the link to buy the book from NZCER. So much fun on Easter Sunday!
Thanks again

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