Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Pre-Holiday Message

The end of the semester is almost here, when our students head home and we take a break.  For many of us, the holidays are a time of reflection about our lives, our families, and the New Year.  It's natural to reflect on our teaching as well.  Teaching--like other service fields--lends itself to thinking.  We have a multitude of daily interactions for months with our students, so our brains become very busy. 

We can either turn away from these thoughts or embrace the creativity and energy that comes from reflection.  I have a few suggestions for starting points.  One, write down your thoughts and include both negative and positive thoughts (be sure to think of positive aspects of your class, even if it did not go as well as you wanted).  Take a pen or type your thoughts in a quick brainstorm and then file your thoughts away with your teaching materials for that class.  Next time that you get ready to teach this course, those comments will be there and can spark some thinking about new ways to tweak the course and improve it.

Second, consider quotations as a starting point for reflection.  These act as queries which encourage your thinking.  Below are some quotes which you might find helpful as you reflect on your semester. 

Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an injury to one's self-esteem.  That is why young children, before they are aware of their own self-importance, learn so easily.
~Thomas Szasz

"Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or doing it better." ~ John Updike

“The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.” 
~ Mark Van Doren

We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself. 
~Lloyd Alexander

Finally, this is a useful reminder when we consider our classrooms as creative learning environments.  It's the conclusion to an article on creativity research (Mary Jane Petrowski, 2000):

"Margaret Wheatley reminds us that scientists have long ago established that life is inherently creative at all molecular levels. It is instructive to reflect on what scientists tell us about creativity before we return to our libraries and students (Wheatley and Kellner-Rogers, 1999, p. 13):

  • ``Everything is in a constant process of discovery and creating.'' In other words, we are hardwired for creativity.
  • ``Life uses messes to get to well-ordered solutions.'' The Ideo ``deep dive'' reminds us that we should ``fail often and early in order to succeed sooner''.
  •  ``Life is intent on finding what works, not what's right.'' Creativity is not about perfectionism and there is no one answer; rather there are many answers that will work.
  • ``Life creates more possibilities as it engages with opportunities.'' Engage at all costs with opportunities for learning. Just as creativity requires isolation and privacy, stimulation, novelty, and new experience also fuel it."
Want to see fun creative ideas on video ?  Check out "the FunTheory."  I like the piano steps and this year's winner, the speed camera lottery!  

Have a safe and enjoyable holiday.  I will be back after January 1st.