Wednesday, February 6, 2013

In his element

Yesterday I started reading Ken Robinson's book " The Element". Sir Ken is an entertaining yet spot on writer. His book profiles several successful folks who did not do well in school. In fact, they were terrible in school and couldn't wait to get out. It seems that they were not valued, or at least the way they were "smart" was not acknowledged or nurtured. He's talking about the artists, musicians, dancers and gymnasts of the world who needed someone to recognize their talents and encourage them on their path.
Schools were set up during the time of the industrial revoltion and designed to create workers for factories. Ken says this is not the case anymore and I couldn't agree more. Ken also says schools kill creativity. Oh boy, that's a big can of worms.
Well, I do have some experience here. I have been a public school teacher and have been guilty of killing creativity. You see, one cannot just allow 24 kids to each explore their own creative ideas. Or can you? I couldn't find a way in the classroom, but I have found a way at home.
My life has done a 180. A few years ago I had a dream to design a school for my son. I got to start that school and even teach in that school. Life was good. But then, it slowly became appparent that this school wasn't working for my child. He wasn't interested in the daily menu at school. He thought it was boring. "I need excitement and adventure," he would tell his teacher (me at the time ;)
"Oh brother!" I thought, life isn't always like that. But then it go so bad I had no other choice but to take leave from my teaching position and bring the little thrill seeker home. I admit that it was hard. I had built this school for him. I had put my heart and soul into it for 3 years. But it wasn't working. We were both miserable.
We've been home for 4 months and I am learning to listen to the child. I still "make" him read, write and do math, but mostly we learn about things that interest him and I let him enjoy the things he loves. One of the ways he expresses himself is through drawing. He will only draw in pencil, no color, and please don't ask him to use watercolor (apparently it's not real paint).
So this morning he was in his element. We have been learning about trains (his request) and he wanted to draw a full length train on butcher paper. Alrighty then! He got right to work before breakfast, wearing his skivvies and one sock. He knew exactly what he wanted to do and got right to work. I never had to ask him to stay on task or cajole him into working. Why? He was in his element. This is his work and he feels totally at home doing it. As he was working he kept calling me over to show me details. "This is the tender, it holds extra coal and water for the steam engine" or "this is the dining car, tanker carrying milk, passenger car, etc". The point is that he was telling me all he knew about trains while in his element. I don't think any standardized test could do that!
I am grateful I can be there to encourage him in his creativity.

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