Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Let the Students Create

Photo from Pixabay
I asked my son, who's 15 years old, what classes he looked forward to in school. Without hesitation he said, "Woodshop." He assured me everything else was a bore. (He doesn't go to school in the district that I work in!)

This didn't surprise me. I see it over and over again in my work. Students get excited when they're making something. From Art to our Woods classes to our STEM Lab, they love to create a final product.

And making isn't just something that gets the students engaged. When it comes to human beings, I believe we were created to create. Look at the world. It is changing rapidly because people love to create things that didn't exist before. We can't help but create.

It can't just be any old thing that gets us going, of course. It has to be a final product we are proud of. It has to resonate with our passions (which are one of the great things make us unique creations ourselves). It has be be something valued by our social groups.

But don't think of this only as some physical object we will show our friends. Whatever work we do, we can view it as making something. Whatever we love to do, we can think of it as making or creating. As teachers, for example, we make lessons, but we also make exciting classes. We make laughter and moments to remember.

And most of all, we make a difference.

Seth Godin said, "You are a genius and the world needs your contribution." Angela Maiers latched onto that thought and made a life changing movement in thousands of classrooms. There's isomething powerful there.

In the end, every person wants to make a difference or a contribution. For too many people, that desire has been buried by life's events and forgotten. Some still want it badly, but are misguided in the pursuit. They will make any difference, even a negative one, as long as they played a part.

I got into teaching because I wanted to make a difference. I'm sorry to say that for the first 14 years, I too often forgot that dream. I let the system wear me down. I ran a very traditional high school math class where I made decent lessons. Sometimes I made some fun classroom games, but I didn't let my students make anything interesting. They made pages and pages of math problems.

They probably remember making a lot of mistakes.

Thankfully my dream was revived when I was asked to teach a class about career and college planning. Slowly doors opened and now my days are filled with helping teachers and students make things worth talking about.

And that reminds me. Stories are something we can make too. We usually don't make those alone. We team up with our colleagues and our students.

There's much to think about here, but you get the point. I'll leave it with some questions.

  • What do you love to make in school?
  • Do your students get to see the things you love to make?
  • What do you encourage your students to make?
  • How do you let them show it off beyond the classroom?
  • Do you remind them they were created to create?
  • What stories are you making with your students? They are being made and told whether we think of them or not!  

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