Saturday, March 6, 2010

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

I am not a creative person.  At least that's what I've been telling myself my whole life.  I don't draw well, paint, color.  I don't quite know how to decorate my house.  I don't have a vision for my gardens - in fact, I hate gardening - love looking, hate gardening.  I don't even wrap presents well.  Gift bags were the greatest invention ever!

But lately, I've been coming up with ideas and I'm starting to think that this is my creativity.  I am an idea person. I don't always know how to implement these ideas but I have many.  Of course, they all seem to center around teaching.  That is, after all, where my brain seems to be most focused.  And one of the great things about teaching is, I don't do it alone.  I might not know how to get it going, but I know who to turn to for help.

See full size imageCase in point:
Yesterday, my class took a trip with the art teacher, Maria Monda, to the Heckscher Museum in Huntington.  This is a trip we take each year and, therefore, we see the same paintings in the collection each year.  One of them is George Grosz' Eclipse of the Sun.  This painting was done during the Symbolism period in the 1920's.  The museum liaison spends time with the kids picking out the symbols in the painting.  While the kids were listening, I had a brainstorm.  The creative me came out and turned to Maria, saying, "Why don't we do that with the kids?  Make a symbolic picture?"  We talked later about it and now I have just finished planning the project.  I am introducing symbolism in poetry and literature.  Then we will discuss social issues we face today.  Kids will chose one and work with the art teacher in the computer lab creating a symbolic picture about their chosen issue.

Point 2:
Our science program is in the process of being completely revamped.  What that means for me is I was given about 16 more weeks of science to teach.  Go ahead...ask me if anything was removed.  I know you know the answer to that one.  So, as a result, for the first time in 25 years of teaching, I feel it is literally impossible to teach all of my curriculum.  At first, my solution was to my co-teacher, to my husband, to my science coordinator, to my principal, to my union reps. Guess where that got me.  Exactly.  So I went back to my science coordinator, Sharon Judge.  You should know Sharon is the new science coordinator.  She has been a classroom teacher in the district as long as I have so we have a history together.  This makes it so much easier to work with her.  Back to our meeting.  She spent time telling me she would help me out in any way she could but I still needed to cover everything.  I looked and looked at the list of topics and a brainstorm hit!  Four of the units are about energy: light, natural resources, simple machines, and plant tropisms.  So Sharon and I began to talk about my idea.  Next year, I am going to teach one large unit on energy.  Children will work in groups on different topics and create....not sure yet.  But when all is done, they will know about energy through simple machines, plants, light, natural resources, and then some.  PBL comes into play and I will have 16 weeks worth of science done in about 6.  Voila!

Point 3:
I have two chapters to cover in social studies before I can move on to my next project.  It is the only time of the year the social studies textbooks come out.  These two chapters are so full of information that it would take too long to teach each event one at a time.  So we use the books.  It lays the groundwork for our Westward Expansion project.  Last year we had the idea of using CoverItLive to engage the students in the textbook.  It worked well but I really wanted to get away from direct instruction this year.  So Christine and I talked and, you got it, brainstorm!  We took all the topics in the two chapters, broke them into four main categories: politics, geography, people, and events.  We then made four groups of 6, with each student responsible for researching one topic in a category.  Once the research is complete, the larger group of 6 will be creating a timeline and a picture book about their category.  The children have mostly completed the research and are now working on the project.  When it is all done, they will present to the class.  We will have covered the background information needed to move on and the kids are having a ball learning history.  

So how does my creativity rely on others? Without Maria Monda, the art teacher, I would never be able to bring the symbolism idea to fruition.  Without Sharon Judge, the science coordinator, (who, incidentally taught my light unit this week), I would not have made the connection to energy and would not have come up with a way to consolidate my science units.  Without Christine and the librarian, Anne Brusca, I would not have been able to coordinate and implement the history project.  I've also gone to the band teacher for music support, the speech teacher for VoiceThread response support, the reading teacher for book ideas...the list goes on and on.  And, of course, my PLN is invaluable for assistance in how to implement my ideas. 

I can no longer work alone.  Teaching used to be a very solitary field.  But, for me, not any more.  My ideas are so much better when I have support to implement them.  And for that, I am grateful to you all.

Image: 'blythe - floral bag packaging
Image: 'Driving into the future
Image: 'Day #2: Back to the grind
Image: '3d people partner.


loonyhiker said...

Thanks for sharing your ideas. I hope you don't mind but I will be sharing this post this summer with my grad class when I teach about PBL.

liz said...

I totally agree with the idea that, you "can no longer work alone." I am a resource room teacher in NJ and I have no option but to work in a team all the time. The whole education process works so much better when everyone supports each other.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing those great ideas!