"The free play of art is the result of mastery. " --Ernst Fischer, The Necessity of Art

"Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them." --Ladybird Johnson

"...a well-trained ear, a well-trained intelligence, a well-trained heart, and a well-trained hand...." --Zoltan Kodaly


Learning from others..

Yesterday, I watched someone dear to me receive news which was hard to hear.

She received the news with dignified acceptance, and with warmth towards the news-bearer. That kind of strength of character can only come from a lifetime of responding to each day's challenges with grace-- from building that strength throughout the press of daily details. (In this instance, that would be for more than eighty years!)

That's how I want to live my life--that's how I want to respond to the challenges of teaching, of living: as opportunities to build the kind of strength of character which will enable me to respond to life with dignity, warmth and grace.

...and with gratitude for the gift of knowing others who are already walking that path with style.


Character and education

"...learning is hard. True, learning is fun, exhilarating and gratifying — but it is also often daunting, exhausting and sometimes discouraging. . . . To help chronically low-performing but intelligent students, educators and parents must first recognize that character is at least as important as intellect.” --Angela Duckworth

Discussing the impact of character on academic (and life!) success, this article is a long but interesting (and thought-provoking) read. Well worth the time, I think.

What do you think? Should schools focus on inculcating character in the emotional and academic development of their students?

Reality Check

It seems to me that this is all about figuring out what's most important, and pouring focus, energy, commitment, and resources there.

Which means being willing to take a long hard look at what's already actually happening. Not what I believe to be happening, or what I intended, but what's going on right now in my classroom.

The spirit & attitude with which I handle the incredible gift of working with young, creative, active students can help to propel us--my students and myself-- into creative growth or spiral us downward into apathetic flatlining.

For me, at least, it takes an ongoing willingness to choose to grow: to find the resources which help me to sustain energy in the midst of many needs/finite time; to seek out ways to help me to focus on what truly matters and to assess whether that is what I'm actually teaching; to hone my skills and stretch my mind's flexibility in the midst of the daily demands of teaching.

Seth Godin (my favorite business writer) talks about this process as being willing to look at 'the truth just around the corner'. (Read the post here.)

September tends to be a month when the delight, the demands, the responsibilities and the daily realities of teaching are condensed. It helps me to remember, in the midst of all of this, that being able to do this work that I love, within a community that is vibrantly alive, is a tremendous amount of work, an incredible gift, and an opportunity to stretch myself to grow.

We're all students.


Working to make it right

Seth Godin's take on the structure, function and philosophy of our current education system neatly compacts nearly a century of public school education in a few short paragraphs. He articulates a common understanding of the institution of public education as shaped by the financial needs of our country, rather than the educational needs of our citizens.

I think this is a fairly accurate assessment for much of our public school system--but not for all. Even within a system that is largely failing, there are many schools that are getting it right.

Of course, it should be ALL of the schools that are getting it right.

That would be why we're working so hard to make it right.

What's your opinion? Read the full article here.


Getting to the core (sometimes it's a slow reveal...)

Exploring the motivation in being a writer, Jennifer Gresham asks, "How many of us choose to follow the crowds instead of obligating ourselves to the things that matter?"

Rainer Maria Rilke's advice was to "Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.

This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must,” then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse......A work of art is good if it has arisen out of necessity. That is the only way one can judge it."

Teaching calls to the very center of who I am. The actual experience of teaching, that is. However: teaching, as a profession, is crowded with requirements which seem superfluous, which serve more to draw us away from the 'things that matter' than to strengthen and build the toolkit.

Yet most of us comply. Is that 'following the crowd', or is it simply fulfilling the required but mundane duties of the work?

Kids tend to be most engaged in learning when the teacher functions more as a coach--and as an active learner. Sometimes that means putting aside whatever is currently being touted as the 'next best thing' when we know it conflicts with best practices. But where does that fall, along the spectrum of responsibility to the requirements of the job and to what's most important: responsibility to the creative nurturing of young minds?

I'm not entirely sure yet, but you can bet I'll be thinking about this one for awhile. What do you think?


"If you can create a classroom where kids feel safe to take creative risks, most likely the stress level is lower and they're more available to learn in every way."
--Jan Kirsch, Director of Creative Development: Inner City Arts

"We've got to stop thinking of the students as vessels that get their education poured into them, and instead start thinking of them as drivers of culture. Can we get them deployed as drivers of reform in the school, instead of beneficiaries of it?"
--J.B. Schramm, Founder: College Summit

Intrigued? Want to hear more? Check out the short video, here.


Transforming spaces

I ran across a great story over at BoingBoing about graffiti artists reclaiming decayed urban spaces with vibrant artwork.

Perhaps I should have saved this link for "Art in our schools" month?

Full story, here.