Thursday, June 20, 2013

Joyfully Creative Teaching

Everything is a remix. Okay… what does that mean? To Kirby Ferguson, (writer, director, & editor) it means that creativity is not self-made. It is dependent upon others' previous discoveries.

The creative process embodies three stages:

1.     Copy
2.     Transform
3.     Combine

In essence, I am copying, transforming, and combining Ferguson’s speech to create a “creative” blog post. Quite frankly, this section of my blog post is merely a reorganization of Ferguson’s statements.
Henry Ford… the founder of Ford Motor Company… said this:

“I invented nothing new. I simply assembled the discoveries of other men behind whom were centuries of work… Progress happens when all the factors that make for it are ready and then it is inevitable.”

I like this quote because it invites human beings to be creative without feeling like they need to be the "first". No, I was not the first person to introduce the idea of "Remixing". But, I am the first person to combine Ferguson's ideas in this exact way. Nobody has ever reorganized Ferguson's speech like I am doing at this very moment! Tubular. 

Now, please pardon me as I jump into the next series of questions...

"How does the experience of searching for and making contact with your own passion/joy in learning bridge into your teaching? How is that at the heart of professional development?" -Professor McCaleb

First, let me share with you a few of my "joys". Joy is people. Family, friends, students, children, kind strangers... animals, classical music, weekend getaways, athletics, health... all of which influence my teaching and professional development. 

How? Well, let's start with item one: People. I find joy in getting to know people and talking with them one-on-one. I have also noticed that people tell me things, personal secrets if you will. This is probably because I do not share secrets. 

I'll never forget this-- in elementary school, one of my best friends was practically begging me to tell another one of our best friend's secret. I simply responded with, "No way." "But why??" "Because, if I tell you HER secret, you'll never trust me enough to tell me any of YOUR secrets, ever again!" To this, she laughed. And we've remained friends, and confidants, ever since.

Why am I sharing this story with you? Not exactly sure, but I've shared it, so let's try and tie it in somehow. Perhaps it came to mind because I view people as individuals. My family is made up of individual people who possess differing experiences, interpretations, opinions, feelings, etc. But, instead of listing all of their names, and passions, and personalities, it is more convenient for me, and for everyone else, to just say "my family". 

My students are not just "Ms. Olsen's class". They are Molly, and Tyler, and William, and Catherine, and... I try to get to know ALL of my students. Simple things matter, especially to the kids themselves. For instance, do I know his favorite color? Book? Food? When is her birthday? How did her soccer game go? Did she score any goals? Wow! I remember you mentioning that you scored a goal last weekend too! Way to go Soccer Super Star! Is he struggling with homework because he is misunderstanding? Lacking support from home? Lugging around a disorganized backpack? What's Lauren's dog's name? What are her hobbies? get the picture. 

I suppose the joy I find getting to know people makes teaching a joyful experience for me as well. Teaching is not merely teaching content. It is teaching, and learning, with people. 

The other passions I mentioned above influence my teaching and affect my professional development, too. 

Animals: I will probably keep a "class pet". Many of my lessons may "just happen" to include animals. Animal characters, animal sorting games, paw print math manipulatives...

Classical Music: Easy. Music will be integrated as often as possible to help my students memorize multiplication facts, the United States, the works. And, if my students prefer, classical music will be playing softly in the background during some of our independent exercises. 

Weekend Getaways: Teachers must take care of themselves!

Athletics/Health: Many of my lessons have, and will, include movement. You know, students getting out of their chairs and interacting. A favorite lesson of mine was a science lesson I taught last May to my 1st graders. The objective was for students to view and discuss information about the three states of matter in order to classify objects and "act" like the molecules of solids, liquids, and gases. 

A few highlights: Three "atoms" linked arms because they bonded together and became best friends. What are they now? A molecule! How do molecules act in a solid, like in this block of wood? Show me. How do molecules act in lemonade? The air we breathe? The helium in this balloon? To make a long story short, after the lesson, my students literally pretended they were "gas molecules" during recess. They aced the post-assessment, and tackled a very abstract topic gracefully. BECAUSE, in part, the teacher got them moving. 

So, jumping back to the beginning of this "creative" blog post. Did I invent acting? No. Did I discover how molecules behave within the three states of matter? Definitely not. Did I use equity sticks to select eight students at a time to "act" like molecules in order to demonstrate to the class the characteristics of the three states of matter? Yes. Did I instruct the entire class to collectively act like the three states of matter in order to prepare for their assessment? Yes. Did my kids love it? Yes. Did I? Yes. 

So, there you have it. Discover your passions, and do yourself a favor: Incorporate them into your teaching. Not only will your students respond positively, but so will you... naturally. 

Thank you kindly.

Your friend, 



  1. My favorite part is the three atomic kids linking arms to make a molecule, bonding, & then ace-ing the test. Seems to me that you're doing that with the digital environment & maybe we're a sort of family--

    1. Perfect! I love that you can incorporate your passions into your classroom and remix it into something fantastic. From teaching with you over the last year, I have seen you incorporate all of these aspects into your daily experiences and the result are shown in your students learning. Great job on everything.

      Your friend,

      Dani =)