When I was in high school, I was forced to read some awful novels. Because of this, to this day, the thought of William Shakespeare makes me want to gouge out my eyes. When I was younger, I felt as though there were many books that should never have been written. They were a waste of resources, time, and energy. And, I had to read them. So, being the rebel I was, I raised my middle finger in the air and didn’t read many of the books I was assigned. I took shortcuts. I read the Cliff Notes version of many books back then. In retrospect, I wish I had just read the books. I feel now as though I missed out on a lot because of my too-cool-for-school attitude. But, at this point, I want to leave the past in the past while still learning from it. So, I now have a rule when reading a new book: I must finish every book I begin no matter how boring or horrible it may be. That’s the only reason I finished any book by Suzanne Collins.
This summer my reading list was short on purpose. I wanted this summer to be different. I wanted to dig into curriculum development a bit more this summer and so I knew I needed time for this. With that as my guiding focus, I read only two professional development texts this summer. As I already spent several blog posts earlier in the summer debriefing these two novels, I will not labor over them individually. I will say that they were great reminders of why we as teachers do what we do. We are innovators and engineers of the future because we see the problems that exist in our world and desperately want to fix them. The two books I read this summer beat the same very drum I use as a teacher. That was reassuring and nice to see. They also taught me some new things. I revamped my grading scale a bit because of the book Grading Smarter Not Harder.
But, I found that the second text I read this summer served as the catalyst for everything else I accomplished over the past few months. Creative Schools by Sir Ken Robinson motivated me to rethink my curriculum and classroom. Rather than viewing myself as a test-prep guide in the classroom, I need to think of my role as a creative, inspirational Guru. I’m a guide for the students and not the giver of knowledge. My role as a teacher should be about inspiring students to want to learn more on their own. I want to inspire students to ask questions. I want my students to fail and then figure out a new way to solve a problem. Robinson’s book did just that. It inspired me to reshape my role as teacher. After reading this amazing text, I went on a journey myself. I explored unchartered skills and discovered new ways to make the education my students will be receiving this year more tangible and real.
I created a Farm Program for my class because I wanted to not just teach my students how to knit, but I wanted them to see where the yarn they would be using came from. This then lead into a whole new world of awesomeness for me, which I’ll explore in a future entry. But if it wasn’t for Robinson’s book, I’m not sure I would have even bothered to go down that path. I probably would have taken the road most travelled and that would have been sad. Luckily for me, my school, my new co-teacher, and my students, I took the road less travelled like Robert Frost suggested and I’m ready to get creative and inspire my students as they learn how to apply the skills we learn in the classroom in fun and unique ways.