I have many cases to share in support of teaching with the following practices: creative thinking, open-ended solutions, empowering the student's/child's voice, problem-solving, teamwork approach to projects.....
We celebrated my one-year old's birthday at the children's museum of Houston over the weekend. The place is a model of what a school should be! Many walk in and only see kids playing, jumping, laughing, talking, and shrieking with delight as they create paper rockets and try to lauch them with an air pump rocket launcher. I watched a group of children launch their rocket, aim at the highest target and miss. The group waited on each other, watched each other's paper rockets fly and returned to the work table. Back at the work table they inspected their own rocket, they inspected each other's rocket, they talked about why it didn't hit the target and what changes they were going to make for the next launch....... then I had an "a-ha" moment. When the question comes up of "what should we do to improve out education system, here is an example how how to improve it. This place is like a compass and it is pointing due north! This place is a great resource for educators, just sit, watch, listen, learn, wonder, take notes, take pictures, ask for samples, etc.
Thinking out of the box is a practice. We hear the slogan. We see it posted. But do we really practice it? In 1997 I began my journey in education. It took about 2 years into my journey to really put this "saying" into practice. I was always jumping out of the box. Some strategies/techniques I learned did help and some did not. I sought out my own mentors. How does one impart to teachers that he/she is empowered? That he/she has the ability to seek out, learn, try, do, ask, etc? This has been part of my make-up. This must be part of every teacher's make-up. After you ask to attend a conference/workshop/training and you're informed that the budget is not available to cover, now is the time to "think out of the box." The cost for going to the children's museum of Houston: It can be free on the first Sunday of the month or on Thursdays from 5 - 8PM! The cost all other times is $7!
Workshops and trainings usually have a fee. Some school budgets are creative a find ways to cover costs, some have had to cut back. But the journey to becoming a educator must go on! Just like the kids who kept at it with the paper rockets ships! They missed the target but kept going back to the work table to figure it out. When we "miss the target" we must not only go back to the "work table" but take a hard look at what tools your "work table" has. Begin with your vision for your students. Ask yourself: "Why do I teach the way I teach?" "Why do I teach what I teach?" "How is this preparing my children/students to be creative thinkers, to be problem-solvers, to be team players... in essence to be tomorrow's leaders?" Finally: "How do we all get on board to do what is necessary for our children/students?"
Remember in the end that great teaching doesn't come from a box of manipulatives. It doesn't come from the latest technology or computer programs. It doesn't come from a curriculum/program in a box. It's about the people. It's about you. It's what you do with the resources. It's how you become creative when your preferred resources are not available. It's thinking out of the box. If we don't, then how will we impart this on our students/children?
I love the following quote. "Play Is The Work of the Child" -Maria Montessori