When was the last time you asked your students, “What makes you really mad?”
It’s a question that many teachers in Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) ask their students.
Classroom management is hard enough; why would any teacher want to give their students a reason to get angry?
Anger is a powerful emotion that activates us and gets us on our feet. Students need practice examining the issues that make them angry and channeling that energy in productive ways. I’m not suggesting that teachers become therapists for their students, but civic engagement is a constructive way for them to redirect their feelings of anger.
When teachers solve problems, they inspire their students to solve problems, too. How can teachers use their best strategies as a launching pad for deeper learning and professional growth? And how can curiosity, co-creation, and collaboration before a lesson idea is formed be a game-changer for classroom practice?
On this episode of Tch Talks, Ashley Lamb-Sinclair, Instructional Specialist and Deeper Learning Coach for Fern Creek High School in Louisville, Kentucky and 2016 Kentucky Teacher of the Year, joins us to talk about her work with School Startup. This pilot program is where three cohorts of Teacher-Founders are engaged in the design process to rethink and redesign deeper learning in their classrooms and professional learning communities.
She also shares her recent adventures as founder and CEO of Curio Learning, an app that helps teachers discover new ideas and curate them in a personalized way. The app also facilitates collaboration with other educators in order for them to grow as professionals and find the ways to best help their students.
Ashley believes that if every teacher woke up to the awesome influence he or she has, there would be a drastic overhaul of the system and that — bottom line — it takes a teacher to transform learning.
What is Critical Creativity?
To Dan Ryder and Amy Burval, critical creativity is “students using creative expression to demonstrate deeper thinking and the nuances of understanding content.” It’s a portmanteau of sorts, which has the potential to turn ideas into action and push your students toward deeper learning and meaningful understanding.
Dan and Amy believe that, “When students make connections, transform knowledge, and articulate the reasons behind their creative choices, learning becomes more sticky, meaningful, and authentic.” Articulation of creative reasoning is key, because as students learn the power of explanation, rationale, and intentionality, they shift from passive pupils along for the ride to active drivers of their own learning. And the best part of this shift is that it occurs in the midst of purposeful play.
On this episode of Tch Talks, Dan Ryder, Education Director of the Success and Innovation Center at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington, Maine, joins us to talk about his and Amy’s new book, Intention: Critical Creativity in the Classroom, and how a little rigorous whimsy can help you transform learning in your classroom right now.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
This Won’t Be Easy
Important conversations never are. But our students — and colleagues — learn as much from what we do (or don’t do) as what we say (or don’t say). The events that transpired in Charlottesville, Virginia are likely weighing heavy on your students’ hearts and minds, just as they are on yours. You haven’t had the opportunity to learn their names, set up a structure, or lay the foundation for learning this year, but you can still create a space for your students to begin to unpack race, face history, and grapple with the lasting legacies of the past.
August Webinar with Teaching Channel, WGBH, and PBS LearningMedia
Last month, PBS LearningMedia, WGBH, and Teaching Channel partnered to co-host a webinar on Engineering and the Design Process: Real-World Classroom Resources. The interactive, hour-long event provided an opportunity for classroom practitioners to converse with our combined team of classroom educators and curriculum experts.
Wow! What a turn out! Over 800 registrants AND we maxed out the webinar platform!
Author’s note: This is a continuation of my post Design Thinking, Empathy, and Equity, that was published earlier this year. It feels particularly timely to share after the racially divisive and violent events that marked this past month.
I have no doubt that our students will return to our classrooms in August with questions we’re afraid or unsure how to answer, and possibly with fear and frustration. I want to offer up the following as one possibility for how we can move our collective equity work forward. Building empathy in our students is a beginning step toward the creation of a more loving society, and perhaps design thinking can get us there.
When engaged with fidelity, the design thinking process is a rigorous one that truly engages students in deeper learning. If we’re grounding this work in equity, the process shouldn’t be rushed. In fact, the seemingly fluid process of design thinking should include pauses. Such pauses should take place after students have started building their empathy muscles, and are approaching the stages of prototyping and testing.
Asking a teacher to do anything teaching related on a Saturday is just as terrifying as being at the wrong end of a firing squad. How can we do this and expect educators to attend? These thoughts, and many others, were racing through my head as I logged off the Skype call with the team planning an upcoming Teacher2Teacher Engag(ED) Exchange Event in Washington, D.C.
But you DID come out on a cold damp winter day. You came from within the city of Washington, from Maryland, and from Virginia. You traveled down from Philadelphia… and even from Mississippi. You came!
I honor and admire Design Thinking for many reasons — its ingenuity, how engaging and rigorous it can be for students, and ultimately that it serves as a vehicle for Deeper Learning. But mostly I value Design Thinking because it gives me hope — hope in the power and potential that it holds for our students as human beings. Design Thinking has the unique power to leverage the intersection of equity and innovation through deeper learning and empathy.