I dream of a school building that is designed as thoughtfully as someone's dream home.
What else would you want to include in your dream school environment?
Happy Father's Day to all fathers, grandfathers, and fathers-to-be! I wished my father a happy father's day via Skype today as he lives in Austria. My father is Austrian, speaks multiple languages, and has worked hard his whole life. He's been in retirement for a while now and is happy to travel, relax, sleep, eat, paint, write, read, and spend time with friends and family. I've learned a lot from my father and continue to learn from him but here are three important lessons I learned from my dad!
1. Explore: My dad loves to explore nature. He has a passion for plants and animals and knows the scientific name for just about everything. As a child, we would pile into the car and drive into the countryside. My dad would park us next to a sprawling forest with no apparent entrance and would lead us on a hunt for berries and chanterelles. We also loved to travel, visit castles, explore museums, and just be out and about. This is such an important part of who I am and who I continue to be as I love to explore and discover new things, new places, new foods, and new experiences. This is also vitally important for the classroom experience.
2. Listen: When I was in college, I remember talking a mile a minute. My dad would just smile and watch me talk for ages. I thought my dad was so quiet and I wondered why he didn't speak much. However, when he did speak, it felt like pearls of wisdom would fall from his lips. "Listen more than you speak. You'll learn more that way." As the years have passed, I've moved from speaking quickly and a lot like my mother, to speaking less and listening more like my father. He was right. I've learned so much just by listening to my colleagues, students, and those I hold so dear to my heart. I also listen to many books on tape now, which allows me to hear so many people's perspectives on various topics of interest. I feel like I'm becoming a better friend, a better teacher, and a better wife by taking the time to really listen.
3. Be kind: This is such a needed rule that should be enforced everywhere. Be kind to all those you encounter. It doesn't matter their role, their background, their experience - just be kind. In fact, everyone is fighting their own battles and deserves kindness in their lives. I also much prefer being kind to just being nice. Nice feels like a surface level version of being kind. Imagine a world where all were kind to one another, and actually cared about others in a positive and supportive way. Imagine how much happier our world would be if everyone were kind.
I love you, Vatilein! Happy Father's Day to you!
So, I encourage you to explore, listen, and be kind!
Popular education buzzwords like grit, experiential learning, individualized instruction, entrepreneurship, cooperative learning, and social emotional learning, whip around education circles offering possible solutions to the age old problem of schooling. Yet, few turn to the arts as part of the solution. Just looking at the list of buzzwords above, all of them are naturally embedded in the arts.
For too many years the arts have had to wrestle their way into the educational arena. Art advocates feel the need to argue for the importance of the arts, to convince not just the general public, but unfortunately those in charge of education of their value. Even with multiple research studies finding positive correlations between the arts and academic achievement, the arts are often pushed aside. Too often, people draw conclusions about the arts as a way to get to the final destination. Students can learn about FILL IN THE BLANK through the arts. Why not reverse the idea that FILL IN THE BLANK is a vehicle which leads us to the arts as our destination?
Here are 4 things education can learn from the arts:
1. The arts are messy. Much like success stories, there is no straight line from beginning to end, but much trial and error, until we reach a final product. The arts inherently teach us this! Speak to any artist, musician, dancer, performer, and they will confirm this to be true. It's high time for classrooms to become flexible learning spaces, where anything can happen, where the design of the room might change based on the task rather than designed around a subject, and where desks become optional.
2. The arts require an audience. Too often teaching and learning in school happen in silos. Projects are created for the teacher or for peers in the classroom and then that's it. When we create art, it's meant to be shared with an audience. Sometimes, the arts are created to serve a specific community. Creating with purpose and for an authentic audience should become the central focus in the classroom.
3. The arts are interdisciplinary. Every piece of art speaks about a different aspect of our humanity. It is time to smash the imaginary glass boxes we've created to fit each subject in its own container and to mix the subjects together, much like colors on a palette, to create a new educational experience. STEM was attempting to mix certain colors together, but realized it needed the arts as it morphed into STEAM. Let's continue to create our own palettes to create new forms of teaching and learning that resemble real world projects, jobs, and lives.
4. The arts embody most educational buzzwords. They require grit, mindfulness, individualized education, risk-taking, creating thinking, problem-solving, entrepreneurship, and a growth mindset. The arts take us beyond seeing and reading about, but rather require us to do, to make, to create, and to respond to our world. When teaching about these buzzwords, we must look at the arts as a prime example.
So dive into the arts, head first, and I guarantee you'll learn something new about yourself, others, and the world around you.
Shout out to my former professor and former head of Arts in Education at Harvard: Dr. Jessica Hoffman Davis for her incredible work in this arena. Check out her books http://jessicahoffmanndavis.com/books/
We've all worried about something at some point or another. Some of us love to worry, because it feels like we're doing something. Worrying is natural, but worrying isn't a positive way to handle a situation. We often worry about things we have no control over! We worry about the future and the 'what ifs'. We invent stories and bring them to full completion with a whole cycle of what ifs, leading us down a dark and gloomy worry path, that then leads to further worry, stress, and anxiety.
Why am I writing about worrying? Well, while I don't love to worry, I do so often. If I don't stop myself from worrying and truly ask myself the following questions, I can worry myself into a further well of worries.
1. What are you worrying about? Discern between worries that you can control and the ones you have no control over.
A. If something is totally out of your control (it deals with the future, the unknown, or a 'what if' scenario) - STOP WORRYING! Instead, be in the present moment, give thanks for what you have, and focus on what you can control, which is your own behavior and your own reactions.
B. If it is in your control (it deals with the now, it's something that has been causing you stress in your life, your work, etc), - MOVE ON TO QUESTION 2
2. What can you DO? Focus on action, rather than more thinking/feeling/worrying.
A. If you're worried about something you have control over, such as finishing a project, then set time aside to get it done and just do it. Do a brain dump of your to dos, and then calendar in your work.
B. If you're worried about a relationship, speak to that person to express your concerns and find a way to fix it. Think about what YOU can do to make it better rather than just waiting for the other person to fix it. Take initiative and be proactive.
STOP WORRYING ABOUT FUTURE UNCERTAINTY AND BE IN THE PRESENT MOMENT: The antithesis of worrying is being mindful. Many people connect mindfulness with meditation, but in reality mindfulness is dealing with the present moment and focusing on one thing at a time.
What suggestions do you have to stop worrying and to focus more on the present?