Let’s Prioritize Creativity

I was lucky. As a young child in elementary school, I had the privilege of being accepted into the gifted program with phenomenal teachers. Their passion for learning and love for children were evident everywhere you looked. But more importantly, these teachers infused creativity into everything they did. 

For example, in 3rd grade, my teacher used sentence phrases to help us write short stories. It was a hodgepodge of phrases that we put together as the inspiration for our stories. From those stories, she had us hand-draw pictures to go along with the storyline. Afterwards, she took those stories and had them published into two hardback books. One that went into the school’s library, and the other one went home with us. So, basically, I wrote and illustrated my first book in the 3rd grade. 

Another example was in the 4th grade. To help us learn how to write letters but also to understand how the U.S. Postal System worked, my teacher set up a post office in our classroom. Yes, we had the post office window and mailbox! We got to write letters to our friends, address them, put a stamp on it, submit them to the post office, and have the postmaster deliver the letters to us within the same day. We all took turns being the postmaster so we could experience sorting, stamping, and delivering the letters. Who knew that the U.S. Postal Service could be run by a bunch of giggly 4th graders?

My last example occurred in my 6th grade class. When learning about California state history, my teacher planned a trip for us to fly to Sacramento so we could see with our own eyes our State Capitol. We toured the Capitol building and went by the governor’s mansion. She made history come alive for us while also giving us real-world experience with traveling on a plane and being away from home for a few days. 

These three examples show how creativity in the classroom not only can leave lasting impressions on a child, but they also exemplify how teaching should be in the classroom for everyone – not just gifted students and certainly not just for elementary-aged children.

When I became a teacher, my goal was to make learning fun and creative for my middle school kiddoes. Luckily for me, I started back in 1995 before standardized testing became the barometer of learning that it is today. And, I had quite a bit of autonomy as California did not have history standards at the time, but rather teachers used a framework that allowed for more voice and choice for teachers and students.

My point is that creativity should be a priority in the classroom. And, I don’t mean at the expense of important literacy skills either. Students can learn in creative ways, and they can acquire and practice reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills in the process. I know this because that’s exactly how I structured my classes…after all, I learned from the best.

If you’re interested in how I infused creativity into my instructional practices, please join me for my session “Let’s Get Appy – Creativity in the Social Science Classroom” on June 27, 28, 30 or August 1, 2, 4. This virtual workshop is part of the summer series hosted by EdTechTeacher, and if you’re not interested in this particular session (no hard feelings, I promise!), there are 30+ other sessions offered by a phenomenal team of educators. Please check out the EdTechTeacher website for more information.

Sparking the Learning

The person I am today is the direct result of the many wonderful, generous, and talented people in my life, and all of them are near and dear to my heart. But one in particular stands out as he’s one of the first friends I made when I entered the teaching profession: @primohistory. While Gregg and I have moved to different schools from the one which started our friendship, we have remained close friends as we share the love of history as well as similar teaching philosophies and general outlook on life. I bring Gregg up because he’s the one who coined the phrase “history is a verb” to describe how history should be learned, taught, explored, and experienced. Even though we teach different grade levels as well as content within the social science discipline, we have found that good teaching strategies transcend content and grade level bands. In fact, we regularly share new ideas and discuss revisions of old favorite practices to change things up on our respective classrooms…

Which brings me back to the reason for this post: Sparking the Learning.

I will be the first to admit that history was not my favorite subject in school. And that wasn’t because I didn’t have awesome teachers (I had many), but it was because the emphasis tended to be on rote memorization of names, dates, and events. I swore that I would do everything I could to make history fun, engaging, and worthwhile. In other words, I planned to design my class around the term: history is a verb.

The moment my students walked through my doors, I told them that they were mini-historians. I explained that it was my job to teach them historical analysis skills, but it their job to make sense of the primary and secondary sources set before them. They were going to be active participants in the learning process, and I was merely the guide on the side. But in order to spark the learning, I had to design active learning tasks.

I preface all of this because I am excited to host a workshop for @edtechteacher21 titled Inquiry & Reflection: History is a Verb. This three-day workshop is scheduled for June 20, 21, and 23 and will include lesson ideas, best practices, and student samples on how to make learning history active, engaging, and meaningful. The details for this workshop and many, MANY others hosted by a talented crew of educators @edtechteacher21 can be found on their website: edtechteacher.org.

Please join me on June 20th for Inquiry & Reflection: History is a Verb. I’d love to connect with you!

Easing Back Into Things

For the past two years, I have been inconsistent at best in maintaining my professional blog and social media accounts. The reason for my hiatus and intermittent social media presence is simply because I was overwhelmed. The pandemic not only threw me for a loop but I was also having to watch my mom’s health deteriorate before my very eyes. Everything was simply too much for me, and I had to restructure and reprioritize what was most important.

The biggest personal change was losing my mom.

The biggest professional change was making the decision to leave the classroom.

It’s been 8 months since I’ve lost my mom, and 4 months since I left the classroom. During that time, I’ve leaned on my faith, embraced the security found in marrying a good man, and reflected on the next chapter of my professional career

When one door closes, another one opens.

Several new opportunities have presented itself since I retired from classroom teaching. My newest endeavor is working for @EdTechTeacher21 first as a micro-credential assessor and now as an instructor for their summer workshops. From June to August, I’ll be sharing best practices and research-based strategies in the areas of:

  • Inquiry & Reflection
  • Social Emotional Learning
  • Creativity in the Social Science Classroom
  • Leading with Empathy

I’m excited to finally be able to move on from what has been one of the hardest challenges I’ve ever faced both personally and professionally. And, I’m really grateful that I have a supportive husband who encouraged me to let go of the familiar in order to experience something new and fresh. 

I’m finally ready to ease back into things.