01 December 2012

Thoughts on Being an Educator and a Mom

 Since before he could read fluently, my now nine year old son, Isaac, has been interested in writing.  He keeps journals, writes lists, creates stories with his Lego characters, and creates scenarios to share with me in conversation.
Unfortunately, with increasing pressure for students to perform well on standardized assessments, and with Kentucky’s abolishment of writing portfolios as part of the assessment and accountability system, writing is often demoted to worksheets, quizzes on the computer during writing time, practice for the state’s On-Demand Writing assessment, contrived personal narratives, and writing sentences for each spelling word.   
Experiences for our children can be much more than this though, if we are thoughtful with our approaches and we continue to use our voices to emphasize the importance of creativity in education.  At the 2012 National Council for Teachers of English Annual Convention, I had the joy of hearing Sir Ken Robinson speak on the importance of creativity.  He went as far to say “creativity is as important as literacy.”  I believe this statement and think we should use our voices as parents and as educators to remind our community members and policymakers that we need to promote creativity by letting students study and explore topics that interest them.  We need to allow more time for creating, performing, dreaming, and thinking.
Thankfully, Isaac has a teacher this year who is interested in helping students develop as better writers and thinkers.  It’s a hard job as a public school teacher, and I speak from experience, but I also know the importance of encouraging students to write about topics which interest them.   To encourage this interest, I recently arranged for Isaac’s class to Skype with a nine year old author (Eva) from Bismarck, North Dakota.  

Below is a video clip from Isaac’s experience Skyping with Eva.  In the interest of my personal blog showing only my own child and Eva, the video has been edited.  We enter the video after Eva asked the class if there were any writers, artists, or dancers in the class.  (Side note--I love her focus on the arts as a whole—fits perfectly with promoting the importance of kids performing, creating, and dreaming)   Isaac is answering her question by describing the way he creates stories with his Lego characters.  Eva confidently affirms his approach to writing and proceeds to answer questions from Isaac and his classmates. 

It’s my hope that creative experiences such as this will become more a regular part of all classes, not just for my own children but for all children.  Eva's mom, Gwyn Ridenhour, has this same hope, and she uses her expertise and experience to promote more creative opportunities for children in North Dakota.  By collaborating with others, listening to children, and using our voices, our hope will be realized.