Friday, January 04, 2008

Lose stress get creative

It is now time to leave behind the impossible demands of last century's poorly designed curriculums and and begin to be creative!

Talking to a number of teachers since the school year ended I have sensed a growing feeling of frustration and stress by all of the expectations imposed on them.

This is ironic in many ways because the 'new' New Zealand Curriculum is giving schools the freedom to develop programmes to cater for the real needs of their students. It asks teachers to develop students as 'seekers, users and creators of their own knowledge' and focuses on helping all students develop, what they call, future orientated 'key competencies'.

Teachers seem to be so tired by the unending pressure past demands to notice the new opportunities!

The use of term 'personalised learning' ought to give such teachers some hope. 'Personalised learning' suggests the need to replace the mass eduction vision of the past century. A mass education ( 'one size fits all") system that has become a nightmare for the creative and/or less academic students.

Our current school system is simply dysfunctional.

Even in the most friendly of Junior classrooms learning is determined by teachers not based on the 'emergent' interests and talents of the students. As students move through system their schools resemble what they were based on, the factories of the past century. Only the academic survive.

What is required now is courageous leadership by school principal to inspire teachers and also for them to network up with other schools to share local expertise.

The question to ask is what kind of society do we want to be, and what qualities will future students need to thrive in their future not our past? The challenges of the futures cannot be solved by so called 'experts' telling others what to do, it will depend on releasing the creativity and tapping the energy of every person.

Diversity not standardisation will be required.

Leadership is about creating conditions for ideas to generate and and then spreading positive ideas as they emerge.

Such creative ideas have aways been in our system but all too often they have been ignored or 'standardized' in ways which 'water down' their power.

In the early 1950s Sylvia Ashton Warner realized the importance of connecting with her students lives. She made full use of her Maori students rich out of school experiences to base her language programme on. Sylvia taught us how important it was to make seamless connection between reading, writing, talking, reflecting, thinking and imagination. Sylvia was a controversial figure but her ideas are still valuable. How much of students real lives are reflected in our current classrooms?

Forget following imposed curriculum's. Make use of what exists already in children's minds. As Sylvia wrote: ' there is so much inside already.So much locked in.If only I could get it our and use it as working material.Their first books must be made out of the stuff of the child's mind'.

This message applies to teachers at all levels. We need to respect the ideas of our students, to value their experiences and interests. We need to stop teaching and listen to our students.

Today creative teachers appreciate the power of respectful relationship's and the need to work alongside their students, making use of a 'co- constructive approach', to personalise learning. Such teachers recognise students strengths and prior ideas, value discussion, integrate learning areas, and the value representation of students idea through a range of creative media.

All a little hard to do in schools designed for a mass instruction era! No wonder so many students become 'disengaged'.

in the 50s another important early creative teacher was Elwyn Richardson. Instead of following syllabuses, and sticking to timetables, he turned to the natural environment and the creative arts. Together, he and his children, explored the real world creating in the process their own rich problem solving science, social studies and environmental programmes. They created poems and stories, made poetry, lino cuts and paintings.

How many authentic 'emergent' integrated programmes do we see today?

I wonder how many alienated and anti-social youth would we have today if we had fully developed the promise of such a creative approach to education, particularly as the students reach secondary schooling?

A society, clinging to outdated hierarchical institutions, is the dysfunctional element.

School have an opportunities to take the lead.

A creative eduction system is the key a positive inclusive future.

Being part of such revolution would be exiting -and any stress would be worth the effort. More than can be said for today's compliant schools.


Anonymous said...

Hi Bruce its us holiday cats Ichy and scratchy, we have been having a very creative time in Catlans. Ichy is drawing furiously in his cat pad and I,m out lerning to catch our food. You should try some painting, as you say it will de stress you. As we Cats say it gives you a purrpuss.

your friends the Ministry Cats Ichy and Scratchy

Anonymous said...

Nice to know yous Minisrty cats are being so creative.

I think I ought to take your advice but it's easier to give it than take it!

It is all about purrpuss; maybe I need a new one for this year!