Sunday, April 13, 2014

Exploration, Inquisitiveness, and Creativity: Where Have They Gone?

I have an almost 2 year old. It's been a hard winter. We're finally getting to the point where we can go outside. The grass is turning green, finally. Enter exploration and inquisitiveness.

He's into everything. Rocks. Potting soil. The hose. Sticks. Dirt. Mud. Sand. Leaves. And on and on. A typical 2 year old playing outside after being cooped up all winter.

I snagged this picture of him as he is pointing the hose directly toward his face. For those of  you wondering if what you think happened actually happened, the answer is no. It wasn't hooked up to the spigot.

As this is happening, I had the inclination to step back and wonder about my students. I fear that some of them have lost the intuition to explore the world around them. After spring break, I had my students show, in any way they wanted, what they learned over break. You would have thought it was the toughest assignment they had ever been given. There were literally no strings attached. No required amount. No specific way they had to show me (like you must write 3 paragraphs). Completely up to them. There were some students who just wanted to write "nothing." I had to beg and plead them to really think about something they learned. It could have been as simple as you finally learned how to put toothpaste on your toothbrush without spilling it, or you learned how to put on your underwear without falling over. It didn't matter. It could have been something like how you finally learned that your little sister doesn't like cheetos. I could have been that you finally figured out how to get past that level you were stuck on in a video game. When I say it didn't matter, it truly didn't matter.

Why was it so hard for them to come up with something? Why did they not see the world around them as a learning opportunity? Why don't they see the world around them as something that can teach them something? Why? Did they lose the ability that 2 year olds have to explore? Was it something that I did this year that made them not want to learn "outside" the walls of the school? Was it the teachers they had before now? Is school the only place they can learn? ....

Then, I started thinking about creativity. I recently started a poetry unit that centers on the use of figurative language. I use a packet to record their thoughts and "data" that they collect about different poems to find examples. Yes, I said I use a packet. Shoot me now, packet haters. I also use poetry books that I bring in. I use web sources. (Although, not that much because I don't have 1:1.) I use poems from their textbooks. Anyway, a couple students said they had done something similar the year before. I then decided that it would I would let those select students do something that they could create on their own to show their learning.

Great idea, I thought. They could use the internet/apps/whatever and do whatever they wanted as long as they could "prove" they were learning the same things as the other students. What more could students want?

Apparently, it didn't suit their desires. But I don't think it was their desires, it was their lack of being creative skills. They didn't want to because they didn't know how to start. They had their canvas and their paint and brushes ( I let them use their phones for research) but they had no vision. No plan. No inkling to what they wanted to do. The worst part was that they looked like a puppy dog who didn't know his way back home.

Where have all the creative juices gone? Did I give them too much freedom? Has there never been a teacher ever do that before to them?

I think students see learning differently from inside a school and outside a school. I think they see learning outside of school as life. Not necessarily learning. I think they believe that they can only learn something inside a school. Maybe they don't see learning outside of school as learning. It's just what they do.

I heard  say that you should keep a journal every day. And in said journal, you shouldn't write down what you did. What you should write down and keep is what you learned. Pretty good advice. Focus on learning.

Now, how am I going to get those students focused on learning instead of not wanting to do anything? Hopefully, I'll let you know.
Have a great week.


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