Never listen to the naysayers. Smile at them and go tenaciously on your way and make your life happen! –Shelley Berc
The one thing I can say about The Creativity Workshop is that it was everything and nothing I imagined. It has been almost two months since I completed the workshop, and I’ve finally unpacked all my thoughts to publish my reflections.
I’ve found my experience was more meaningful than I first realized. After my time in Barcelona, I noticed unexpected ways my fellowship changed me. Indeed, I had become a little boring professionally. I started to become fearful of stepping outside of the box. I worried about my students’ test scores and academic performance more than giving them exciting and engaging experiences. My blandness began to impact my students. They began to mirror their unimaginative teacher. They stopped thinking creatively. They were apprehensive about exploration and discovery learning, and don’t get me started on problem solving!
I would have loved to blame everything on “kids these days”, but I knew I held most of the responsibility. I’ve always prided myself on being full of energy and super creative as a 4th grade science and social studies teacher. But lately I had felt pretty vanilla professionally. I’d become fearful and put myself in a corner. The main goal of my fellowship to Spain was to attend the Creativity Workshop in Barcelona to explore my creative identity and learn techniques to engage students in the creative process. I wanted to get my groove back.
I was wrong to think that I’d be “cured” after one week. What I am finding is that my change is a journey. A journey I happily accept.
It is hard for me to effectively express what I learned from my fellowship. During the workshop we drew, wrote, shared excerpts of our lives, people watched in cafes, meditated, imagined, and so much more. We were encouraged to do activities after the workshop with each other. I explored Barcelona and her beauty, history, and rich culture with people from all over the world. What an amazing opportunity!
Instead of detailing what we did; I’d like to share how I felt after the workshop.
The day before I left Barcelona, I wrote a K. Renae P. Manifesto on my sketchpad. This manifesto was based on what I learned at the workshop, and my own reflections of how I’d changed over the past few years. I’m sharing exactly what I wrote sans spelling and grammar errors.
- Stop worrying about how your students perform on “The Test”.
- Use data appropriately; stop obsessing over data.
- Focus on addressing misconceptions, growing what students do know, encouraging them to be creative, supporting risk taking (theirs and yours), accepting failure as a learning opportunity (theirs and yours), and giving your kiddos wonderful learning opportunities. If you do that, they will be just fine.
- Bring the drama back into your classroom. Why did you stop doing different characters?
- Draw more. Have the kids draw more in science and social studies.
- Write more. Keep encouraging the kids to write technically and creatively.
- Use the technique of automatic writing and drawing with your students. Share that with other educators.
- Read more- especially about people using innovative techniques in the classroom.
- Also, stop reading the same two genres you’ve read your entire life. Read outside your comfort zone.
- Find the beauty in the parts not just the whole.
- Give students more active experiences rather than passive ones. You hate sitting around. Sitting is boring. Stop being boring.
- Prioritize your goals and objectives. You spend too much time on things you really don’t care about.
- Play more. Getting older does not mean you have to be boring.
- Teach outside more. You love lessons outside. The kids love it. If someone drops by, they will have no choice but to love it too.
- Be a trickster in the classroom.
- Stop backing out of things because you are afraid of what may happen. Stop letting your students back out of things. Fear chokes creativity.
- Don’t forget about the power of What if.
- Stop procrastinating on the dreaded paperwork. Knock it out quickly and get back to doing the fun stuff. Better to have it done than looming.
- Engage in more meaningful professional development. Do more PD outside of the state. Interact with educators around the world. Everything is always changing; constantly grow professionally.
- Publish another article. You’ve been wanting to do it. So do it! Even if it doesn’t get published, you wrote something.
- When did you start worrying so much about what other people thought about you? What other people think about you is none of your business. You know that! You’ve been a little weird your entire life. Why stop now? It’s what the kids (and your friends & family) love about you.
The Creativity Workshop was an amazing experience. The workshop was just the beginning of a journey I was completely unaware that I was about to embark upon. I’m appreciate my leaders and workshop mates. This was truly a once and a lifetime opportunity.
I am adhering to My Manifesto, and I have even included other things like using Twitter as a professional outlet & posting experiences on my blog. I’ve developed new classroom activities and a unit on inventions & innovations based on what I’ve learned. I’ve also created a personal and professional growth plan that includes me engaging in professional learning opportunities as well as presenting what I’ve learned.
I am changing. Not to somebody different or the adult self I think I am supposed to be. I am just being me. The real me. And that me is taking chances again, exploring creativity, learning from others around the world, and not being afraid to fail.
I’m getting my groove back!
My fellowship to Barcelona was possible because of Fund for Teachers. If you are a teacher in the United States and you have an amazing idea for professional growth, please consider completing an application. Even if you aren’t funded, the application process is worth it.