Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Art of Teaching Creatively

A good teacher is always challenged by teaching because her or his job is to cultivate the student's limitless potential, feed the student's curiosity, and facilitate the way finding to that individuals highest good. Under "No Child Left Behind," the challenge of teaching has been increased by the pressure to "teach" children to fill in the correct answers on tests. Mistakes, which are arguably, the most instructive teaching tool, are discouraged on scan tron tests. Add to the challenges that teachers already face the constraints of tight budgets and increasing numbers of students from families who are struggling economically and you've got an almost impossible task. Its like throwing a diver,in a cotton straight jacket, into a tank full of hungry sharks and expecting them to teach the sharks to eat seaweed.

Elizabeth Doyle got her MFA right here in Madison at the University of Wisconsin. A few years later, when she recovered her creative energy, she realized she needed to teach so she went back to school to get certified in K-12. Then she climbed into the straight jacket and jumped in the tank. She's doing a brilliant job. You should see the job she's doing. I'll ask her for some samples of the students work to add to this blog. For example, she showed me a before picture that one of her students made at the beginning of the year and an after picture that he made at the end of the school year and you could see the strides he had made in the ability to think abstractly and with dimensionality and complexity. She also has put together a fundraiser for the school's boundless playground.

Elizabeth's mother, Kay, is also a teacher and an artist. I've gotten to know her a little bit through Elizabeth and I have to say she is very generous with her daughter (and her daughter's friends). I think that it is one way she shows her daughter how much she believes in her and supports her. Her mom has graciously invited me to travel along with Elizabeth on trips to both Canada, where she has a summer place, and Tortola, where she has a winter place, and where I have taken two of the most restful vacations of my life. That is why it didn't surprise me when Kay wrote me from Sioux Lookout, Ontario to tell me that she was going to support the art department at Elizabeth's elementary school. She said, "She can decide how to use it." I can't wait to see what Elizabeth does with it, but I know it will make the world a more beautiful place.

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