Well, 2017 was a heck of a year on our homefront. Although I am not sorry to see it go, the writer in me feels the need to reflect on the challenges, adventures and things to celebrate it brought us through some sort of process of documentation. Thank you to Sue McFarlane Penner, a dear friend and one of my true gifts of 2017. Her inspiring Thanksgiving Family Gratitude letters helped me recognize the importance of capturing all that life brings us as a family through the power of words.
#IMMOOC Week 5- Blog Post 3
The wise words above were written by my 14 year old daughter. She started high school this year and was so excited about beginning this new chapter. I have written about Sarah and her journey through school before, but summarizing it all in the big picture; school has always come easy for her, but in many ways, over the years, it has also left her under challenged and somewhat disengaged. Sarah thought high school was going to be different.
You see, Sarah is a creative soul. She loves anything artistic in nature and has an amazing way with words. She is a thinker and a problem solver. She enjoys collaborating with people and enjoys public speaking. She is very globally minded. She embraces learning that encompasses these pieces.
Sarah does love the culture of high school. She has made some lovely connections and new friends. She appreciates the offering of more clubs and experiences and is taking advantage of them. She welcomes the extended freedoms and opportunities. But she also thought, because of the nature of the program she is in, that she was going to see less worksheets, less videos, less lectures, less textbook assignments and less rote. She was looking forward to more project work, more discussions, more collaboration and more creative means to share her thinking and learning. Sarah thought high school was going to be different.
So, to feed her creative soul, over the last couple of weeks she has started to drive some of her own learning outside of school. She is writing daily, based on prompts and ideas she has found online. She is reading a lot of poetry. She set up a blog, entitled Long Story Short, to share some of her past writing pieces and she is working on some new blog posts. She is finding her own way to colour outside the lines.
My daughter Sarah is 13 and in grade 8. School has always come easy for her, but in many ways, over the years, it has also left her under challenged and somewhat disengaged.
Sarah is highly creative and driven by somewhat random topics she is passionate about; urban exploration, Paris, cats, art, softball, music, media, photography, social justice and seeing the world. She is an avid reader who devours novels and entire series. She also loves writing and aspires to publish a book one day. She has an eye for photography, a knack for design, a dramatic flair and a passion for pottery. However, most of Sarah’s creative side and talents have in fact been developed outside of school. In The Innovator’s Mindset, written by George Couros, he refers to this concept as students learning and leading “in spite of school” and suggests the need for schools to ensure they are also empowering students to be innovators and creators “because of school” and as part of their school experience.
From an early age, Sarah has often complained about being bored or disinterested in what school has to offer. She has often questioned the overall relevance of worksheets, workbooks, textbooks, tests, rote assignments and desk in rows. Don’t get me wrong; she is a stellar student and has always been very good at “studenting”, but she has often expressed frustration about what is actually happening within her classroom walls and its application to her future. How many Sarah’s sit in our classrooms feeling similarly?
Sarah has flourished with teachers that honour her creative nature, strengths, interests, and talents by allowing time for student exploration and creation. In those settings, she excels and grows as a learner in many ways. Shouldn’t stimulated, thriving, engaged students be a norm in our schools and serve as the rule, as opposed to the exception?
This week, I was reminded of the power and the potential for joy we offer our students when they are given the opportunity to express themselves in creative and meaningful ways, when I received an envelope in the mail from my daughter. In her Language Arts class, she was tasked with writing a letter to her “hero” and the teacher went the extra mile to send the letters in the mail to the recipients of these letters on behalf of her students. Sarah is a skilled, impassioned and eloquent writer, however, there have been limited times and few assignments offered to her over the years in her school experience, that have allowed her the opportunity to truly show her audience and herself, her true capacity as a writer. How many potential authors, artists, scientists, engineers, designers, and inventors sit waiting to be given opportunities to shine within our school system? How much talent is left untapped on our watch?
So….I write this post as a reminder to all teachers of the importance of giving our students time to explore their passions, and their strengths when planning and programming. And I share this story as a reminder of the necessity to give our students thoughtful, self-directed, open-ended tasks that allow them to express themselves and explore their creative side. Our students need more regular opportunities to explore, create, learn and grow #becauseofschool.
There are two billion mothers in the world. Trust me, I Googled it. So the odds that I would be blessed with you as my mom were pretty slim. But somehow, the stars aligned and I was lucky enough to become your daughter. Out of the two billion mothers in the world, I got you. And I am so, so thankful.
I tried to imagine life without you, but then I realized there would be no life. Technically, I wouldn’t have been born, but that’s not what I’m talking about. What I mean is, without you, I would have no one to pour my heart out to, to speak my mind to and to share a laugh with. At my lowest low, you were there, comforting me and giving me a shoulder to cry on. And at my highest high, you are by my side, your hand in mine. You are my advice giver, “my person” and my rock. And without a rock, I would be completely and utterly lost. You have helped me find my way, find my meaning and find myself.
There is a difference between a house and a home. A house has walls, windows, doors, and a staircase. But a home, a home can have a heartbeat. Home isn’t so much a place, but a person. You are my home.
Your creativity inspires me every day and your ability to see the best in people makes me proud to be your daughter. You have taught me to value memories, knowledge, and love before material things and proved to me that I CAN do anything. You were my first friend, my best friend, and my forever friend. We have an unbreakable bond and our hearts are intertwined together forever.