03 Apr, 2018
Without even realizing it, most teachers either start off with a teaching philosophy at the beginning of their career, or develop one over time. For me, I always believed that students – no matter how young or old – are individuals with minds of their own, and those minds must not only be nourished, but challenged.
No matter what a teacher’s philosophy is, the end result is the same – the mind must be encouraged to become its richest, wisest, most creative self. It was always a joy for me to teach my students to think critically and creatively, and I recently hosted a contest on my blog that did the same.
I created a character called a Tri-pod and wrote a poem about it with the idea that kids would read or listen to the description depicted in the poem and draw/color their version of what this creature would look like. A friend of mine has two elementary school-aged boys, and she recently asked her first-grader’s teacher to read the poem about Tri-pod to the class and have the kids draw a picture.
Oh boy, did this sound this fun. My friend said that most of the children immediately asked, “Well, what does it look like? What is a Tri-pod?” And she had the fun of answering, “Whatever you imagine it to be.”
She said their eyes grew big, and I could just imagine their wheels spinning. The teacher reminded the children of what the poem said – that Tri-pod has question marks for eyes, rainbow colors, and a tail that served as an anchor, etc. – and then they’d start drawing, creating a work of art that was uniquely theirs.
No two were the same. In fact, my friend said that some of the kids insisted on starting their image over if one little thing was “off” – and their two pictures would end up looking nothing alike. Ahh, the beauty of art and originality.
Along with stretching the minds of children through art, I have always encouraged my students to stretch their minds with critical thinking. One day while teaching a group of youngsters, the door to our classroom was wide open and a little dog wandered in. Standing in front of the class, my back was turned to my students and I heard lots of “ooing” and “ahhing.” I continued my lesson, and soon knew of the dog situation taking place in the back of my classroom. I asked if someone would like to take the puppy, put him outside, and close the door. Several voices spoke as one, “Oh, please let him stay.” A temporary answer seemed to serve the need. “As long as he doesn’t disturb us, and everyone can continue their work with only a bit of distraction, he can stay.” Perhaps five minutes passed before the inevitable happened, a puddle on the floor!
My mother was never one to tell me to do some chore. Instead, she would ask “Would you like to help me with the dishes?” A positive answer was always expected and given. It was just considered the right thing to do to be helpful. So, it was natural for me to ask the class “Would someone like to take care of the puddle?”
In an instant, the entire class was totally engrossed in their work, and no volunteer was available. I asked a question that needed an answer, so I seemed to be the logical one to provide the answer, “Well, since I gave permission for the puppy to stay, I should be the one to volunteer to take care of the accident.”
After the floor was tidied, I asked, “Who would like to have the puppy stay and be the one to take care of the next mistake?” In an instant, a boy gathered the puppy, put him outside, and closed the door. No one objected, and there was no need for a second volunteer. It had been an easy learning experience, with no one to blame, and no harm done.
With art, I believe it’s best to let students, both children and adults, learn by trial and discovery. Art and life can be left open to interpretation, and the more we explore, the more we understand.
With more than 30 entries to choose from for this contest, I know I am going to have a difficult time narrowing it down to my choice of the three most creative. I wanted to showcase some of this work before revealing all of it, to give you a taste of a child’s imagination. Stay tuned for the rest – and I’d love to hear your favorites!Back
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She would like to see them in all of California’s elementary schools.-Rosaline Turnbull Past President of the California Parent Teacher’s Association
Yours is a comforting voice during a challenging time. Your stories are charming. Each one is uniquely warm and inspiring, and the messages are uplifting for children and parents alike. The books deserve to be in homes across the country — and the world. They remind me of one of my all-time heroes: Mr. Rogers! They are kind, nurturing, and so encouraging.-Tom Soma Former Executive Director of Ronald McDonald House Charities
I think these books are perfect for children. They are colorful, bright, and the illustrations are awesome. I regret there were no such books in my childhood.-Ludmila Levine Chairman of the American English Department
They are fun to read. Both the writings and drawings are original. They are amazing. There are so many things that could be learned. One student commented she was also learning about American culture.-YiLing Chen Taught Women English
practical, playful, serious, affectionate, enigmatic, and varied.-Claudine DeFaye Former Professor
These books are absolutely incredible. An excellent job of inspiring children’s creativity activities.-Mosun Johnston Smith Former Teacher
The detail and care you’ve put in these stories is remarkable. I celebrated the wonderful wisdom those students reflected to me while reading your books.-Andie Cunningham Instructor