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Monday, September 30, 2013

Looking At Creativity 3...

Lessons Learned…

Creativity Unwrapped 3


With bright, wildly excited eyes, he exuberantly shared with words spilling over words that the long awaited and much anticipated huge science project was to be a creation of the solar system. Artistic, creative, original, unique, any medium, any materials were all descriptors from the teacher concerning this wonderful project. What do you think you’d like to do? I have thought about this all day and all the way home from school, and I think origami planets in different colors of different sizes all connected with pipe cleaners would be perfect. That sounds fantastic! What do you think we need to get for you create this just as you imagine it? With supplies gathered and work space cleared, the imaginer set to creating. Other than peeking in now and again, we, the support team, were to not distract or disturb the imaginer. Colorful origami planets began to fill the space, while pipe cleaner connectors held them in their proper orbits. Evenings filled with brilliant, beautiful creativity flew by punctuated with awe speckled giggles and other sounds of pride.  When at last the stunning, fragile solar system was complete, we were invited to a viewing. Magnificent. Perfect. The imagined solar system had at last become the created one, and  hearts were dancing with joy as they do when creativity is swirling in the midst. Although this humongous creative science project was due on a Friday, several students had decided to bring their projects in Thursday, and what our imaginer saw on Thursday crushed the zeal that had set his spirit soaring through the numerous previous evenings. Most, if not all, of the Thursday solar systems were made from purchased kits with every component perfectly set in place per the specific directions contained in the box, which made them actually, perfect; quite the same but nonetheless perfect.  Friday morning in the parking lot, as other beautiful boxed solar systems streamed by, a very sad thought struck our imaginer. Suddenly, pipe cleaner connectors and origami planets were the tools of losers and others who created without directions in the box. The bright, wildly excited eyes dulled and from the previously jubilating heart came the whispered words, I can’t turn mine in; it’s dumb. My solar system doesn’t look perfect like boxed ones do, and the teacher will think I didn’t work as hard. Gentle, encouraging words from the support team were not quite enough to get us beyond the parking lot crisis occurring in our car, but an intuitive, sensitive, empathetic teacher saved the day, the moment, and a creative heart under siege. This wise and good teacher, upon hearing of the crisis, tenderly pulled the student aside, reminded the student of the excellence of creativity and imaginative work, and affirmed the highest priority and value to be placed upon all of the extra effort involved in creating a unique project, which was, in fact, the assignment.  The imaginer’s smile returned thankfully.  When do we actually trade in our out-of-the-box imaginations for boxed kits complete with perfect directions? Once we make the trade, are we able to go back?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Looking At Creativity 2

Lessons Learned…

Creativity Unwrapped 2


Here is a page out of the Elementary Drama Teacher’s playbook. We, the students and I, like to tell stories by acting them out with scenes and songs, which not only is extremely cooperatively entertaining and fun but its additional academic gain is that this process thoroughly enhances retention of story facts, details, and plot. Most stories we know can be depicted in this creative manner.  We hear the story first, followed by a student retelling or two. Once we are quite confident that we have adequately familiarized ourselves with the plotline, we list, in order, the story events on what we call an emotional line. The story’s emotional line is, in fact, a line that waves up or down depending on the happy or sad, angry or enthusiastic feelings stirred by the various events of the story.  The up or down waves determine the “sound” or the mood of the music to be written(or found) which will, as accurately as we can imagine,  represent the feelings the story events evoke from the story characters. We construct scenes around the songs filled with the characters of the story. We enact the scenes portraying the story characters, sing the songs to enhance the various waves of story feelings, and frequently add a pinch of extemporaneous narration to connect the scenes and drive the story telling. It’s fun. It’s memorable. It’s never the same twice. It’s creative, imaginative, and collaborative.  It’s meaningful arts-based learning.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Looking At Creativity 1...

Lessons Learned…

Creativity Unwrapped 1

“Where does an idea start? How does an idea grow? Deep in the mind of a daydreaming kind, ohhhh.” (youtube: Where does an idea start? by Darcy Hill)
“I’m all alone as I can be, just me, the stars, and restless sea; they’ve given up too easily, the precious dream that set them free. They stopped believing, they stopped trying. When you stop believing you start dying; oh no not me.” (from Christopher Columbus by Darcy Hill)
“My dream of a place where learning can be, ongoing and vital and honestly free; where we plan and we dream and we sketch and we build, and each seed will be sown and the earth will be tilled.”(from Frank Lloyd Wright- On Being Wright by Darcy Hill)
“There’s still room for a dancer, there’s still room for one who’ll dare to dream; in this world of high pressure, it’s the only hope it seems.”(Dancer by Darcy Hill)
“When your way is very weary, when the road is ever long; when your heart is not so cheery, and your spirit’s not that strong; just remember I love you and in that love you will find light, and your family loves and needs you to be home with them tonight.”(from The Little Match Girl adaptation by Darcy Hill)
“Home is where you belong, where you feel strong, helping each other along; Home is where your story starts, we all play parts, in this story called home.”(from Hometown History by Darcy Hill; youtube : This story called home  by Darcy Hill)
“Let them run, let them be full of fun and perfectly free, let them play, oh, let them play.”(from Forever Honest Abe by Darcy Hill)
When I was three, my parents moved the most amazing item I had ever seen into our living room. It was a baby grand piano and it thoroughly captivated me. They said I would listen to the radio and then run to the piano to try and play what I heard, over and over again.  I remember that I couldn’t get enough of it. I remember praying as a young child that I would be able to write beautiful music; an unending prayer through the years. One day in college, a need arose for an original song and before the powerful stream of doubts and pessimism flooded in, I offered to write. The  offer was jubilantly accepted, and then came the siege of the doubts, which were to be quickly squashed by the adrenalin of possibility. Song written. Song performed. Affirmation. And on and on and over again tens of hundreds of times through more than thirty years of creating and basking in the rush of answered prayer and a childhood dream coming true. The joy of creating music fills my soul to the tips of my toes, and the even greater joy of being a teacher of children, a creative drama and music teacher, providing daily opportunities for students to imagine and play and dream bigger than themselves is infinitely rewarding. Free to create. Free to be creative.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

It's About Time 7; Wrap Up...

Lessons Learned…

Time 7 Wrap Up For Now


Twenty four hours. My experiences, a few of which have been briefly chronicled in the previous six blog articles, have taught me that this daily allotment of time can oscillate from interminably long to quicker than a snap depending upon one’s perspective or one’s circumstances. Regardless, however, of one’s perspective, the inscrutable fact remains that this allotment of time is all there is, it’s all we get,  which in and of itself demands a bit of reflection and accountability. Getting tangled in the minutia, majoring in the minors, missing the forest for the trees, these all most assuredly represent, to a certain degree, time wasted. And yet minutia seems so often to be our time-filler of choice, as we hurl ourselves daily into the spin cycle of checklist accomplishment, which, judging by our actual time allocation, we intensely value. Effective checklist accomplishment frequently leaves little room in our time for the nebulous time assignment of effective relational accomplishment.  Perhaps our metrics obsession drives much of this checklist accomplishment priority, but have we fully calculated the price and the cost of it? This is not to say that all checklist accomplishments are the enemy of relational authenticity and strength, for we surely must get things done, and life certainly requires balance, still, far too often our success is measured by numbers rather than by hearts.   In our homes, in our classrooms, in our relationships are we so consumed with the numbers that measure our work that we miss out on substantive and life-changing connections that bring meaning and promise and motivation and joy? Undoubtedly, this willing trade for our time has affected the quality of our relationships, the depth of our commitments, and our ability to enthusiastically engage our passions. What portion of our twenty four hours is given to listening to one another, to sharing with one another, to extending compassion to one another, to building bridges of meaning and hope between hearts and lives, to being creative? These things take time, yet these things are the very life of life and the heartbeat of all that makes us human. Not only must these precious things be taught to our children, they absolutely must be valued and given priority time, so that our children can grow and flourish knowing the gift of connection to one another, which will last in their hearts long after numbers become irrelevant.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

It's About Time 6...

Lessons Learned…

Time 6


Twenty four hours. In the pediatric unit of a hospital. Any time spent here with your child for a reason other than visiting someone else is equivalent to eternity. RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, was the diagnosis for my nine month old. His breathing was raspy and labored and the discomfort his little body felt from this struggle left him so very restless and irritable. My heart ached watching him fight this insidious enemy as in his hospital crib he attempted to sleep tethered to wires and monitors. With permission, I lifted him from the foreign, strange-feeling crib and cradled him in my arms where rest and a bit of sleep more easily came.  All night long, I prayed over this angel in my arms, as the excellent but stretched-way-too-thin medical staff frantically ran from room to pediatric room tending monitors and needs. Between RSV and the Rotavirus, on that particular night during that particular year, every pediatric bed was filled, and sick, hospitalized children were filling beds in other units. Two children died.  Rocking and praying my son through the night, there was peace in our little room despite the overwhelming  and overarching anxiety  wrapped around a stay such as this. The hospital night in that pediatric unit was noisy with the cries of children whose bodies were in tremendous distress and I wept for them through the night as their painful, fearful cries went on. I asked our nurse why their parents were not allowed to hold these children to calm their little bodies? Their parents were not able to stay the night, for circumstances and reasons that demanded they not stay. These little ones cried and cried alone, and I cried wishing I had more arms and more time to hold and rock and pray over these other precious lives struggling with sickness.  Sometimes there simply is not enough time to do all that we need to do because life is busy and hard and full of choices that frequently leave you feeling that none of the options are really that wonderful. Perhaps this is the place where we need to step in for one another and fill in those gaps with our time. We all have hands and hearts and arms to hold and rock. We all have bits of time here and there that we could offer up to help. All we really need is a desire to do something about the cries filling the hallway.  To be continued…

Friday, September 20, 2013

It's About Time 5...

Lessons Learned…

Time 5


Twenty four hours. Not really that long. Unless you’re alone and it’s Christmas Eve.  Mr. Klinghammer was a recent widower whose wife of seventy years had passed quietly in her sleep. The aching, gaping hole in his heart caused by this excruciating loss was borne in silence but clearly evidenced in his sparkle-less eyes, his curved posture, and his faraway glances. Seventy Christmas Eves together and now alone was more than Mr. Klinghammer could take. We had a family tradition of inviting a guest to Christmas Eve dinner; always someone who was alone. This year we invited Mr. Klinghammer.  The dining room table was festively set, the traditional Christmas meal sent delicious swirls of aroma from room to room, and a small wrapped gift sat at Mr. Klinghammer’s place.  Dad went to get our guest, and, with our noses pressed to the front window, we awaited their arrival with great anticipation. We could hardly contain our excitement as Dad and our special guest walked in. Mr. Klinghammer was dressed to the nines in his suit and tie, but best of all was his big, broad smile, which remained throughout Christmas Eve dinner. We all had questions for our guest and listened intently as he shared stories about his rich, full, blessed life.  Time flew, dinner was almost incidental in light of the amazing conversation, and just as we were about to beg for another story, Mr. Klinghammer surprised and delighted us as he pulled a harmonica from his suit pocket. Mind if I play a couple of Christmas carols for you? Please, please do! Song after beautiful song. We listened with rapt attention, applauded, encouraged, sang along, and together basked in the loveliness of sharing this precious time, a gift beyond measure. To be continued...

Monday, September 16, 2013

It's About Time 4...

Lessons Learned…

Time 4


Twenty four hours.  Times seven. This can feel excruciatingly long when one is anticipating spending that time engaging in a task for which one feels thoroughly inept or severely unqualified. I had the time to give which was why I volunteered, but, despite my willing and sincere heart, the realities of the work to be involved were far, far beyond my skill set and that was terrifying. Who on earth did I think I was to sign on to be a counselor at the muscular dystrophy summer camp for a week? Four adolescent campers were to be charged to my care. The responsibility for their health, safety, and fun at their special week at summer camp and away from home was on me, and I was nothing more than willing. They arrived in wheelchairs wearing various body braces and each one had a sparkle of camp magic in their eyes. Their camp magic eyes melted my fears and fortified my resolve help them find the fun that was synonymous with summer camp. They giggled me through my nearly hopeless ineptness and patiently taught me how to serve them. We became quite the flamboyant little gang o’ fun.  From hilarious costumes and daily elaborate accessorizing, to snappy, chic hairstyles and late night heart to heart conversations, we became a tightly bonded example of lovely esprit de corps. My girls.  Twenty four hours times seven absolutely flew and suddenly the time was expired. In a sad silence, we packed up our camp belongings preparing for the breaking up of our gang o’ fun the return journeys to our homes and regular lives. Regular seemed to somehow represent a significant letdown. Camp magic had infused willingness with adequacy and then lifted and changed us all, and in that change, we would each forever carry a piece of that week, of that twenty four hours times seven, of each other with us. To be continued…

Monday, September 9, 2013

It's About Time 3

Lessons Learned…

Time 3


Twenty four hours. This is an unchanging, unbending, unrecoverable daily allotment of time given to each of us as we awaken each day, and its expenditure is fully at the mercy of our choice-making.  Certain activities need to consume certain amounts of our time; eating, sleeping, attending school or going to work, walking the dog, brushing teeth, filling the car with gas, and so on, but there remains a good deal of negotiable time available for extraneous choices. How do you choose? Or is it easier not to choose, not to be deliberate, and instead allow the minutes and hours to fritter away, unapologetically in the daily complacency of extreme over-stimulation due to bombardment of busy-ness, infiltration of obsessive amounts of technology, and infinite choices? So we throw on our headphones and retreat to our screens where there is peace in isolation albeit unstoppable loneliness.  As a teacher, I hear a great deal about screen time as the time choice of choice.  My concern is that our children, our students, and we ourselves are abandoning our desperate longing for connection, relationship, and community in exchange for something much, much less.  We are too tired for the effort of connection, for it does require a sacrificial exertion of self to become engaged in any relational process.  And although we need it more than anything, we run from it because it demands and life simply already demands too much all day long.  Twenty four hours. It’s the same twenty four hours that our parents, and their parents, and generations upon generations upon generations of parents have had, because it never changes. The problem is, I am not sure that we are getting this right. We hurry and scurry frenetically  filling our minutes and hours with all they can possibly contain and then a bit more only to find ourselves in a puddle of ill-tempered exhaustion at the end of the day, preparing to buck up for tomorrow’s agenda of the same merry-go-round ride.  Jumping off the merry-go-round to enjoy a good book with your children in the shade of a backyard tree seems somehow robbed of its peace and pleasure by the burdensome guilt of jumping off what everyone else is managing to stay on. Somehow I know that we know the error of our ways with regards to our time and our choices, yet we remain willingly paralyzed and incompetent in our truthful effort to seek relational strength and balance with our time.  Our twenty four hours are, ever so graciously, new every day and in honor of this gift we must choose to be deliberate and teach our little ones to be deliberate, investing wisely in each other and experiencing the subsequent contentment.  To be continued…

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

It's About Time 2

Lessons Learned

Time 2


Twenty four hours. A gift to have and a gift to give. She had end stage cancer. Although she had battled cancer twice before and won, this time was different and she was very tired. She was a mentor, a role-model, a light in the darkness, an endless giver, a perpetual hugger, a tireless servant, a champion for the voiceless, a babysitter for my boys, and a dear, dear change-your-life kind of friend. She was the person who, when she entered a room, all in the room were made better simply by her quiet, loving presence. She, in her vivid and brilliant imagination, constructed programs to serve those in greatest need in our community and then somehow managed to graciously sidestep the voluminous red tape of well-meaning committees and enact her loving programs, always serving up smiles, hugs, and assistance. She danced ballet. She painted beautiful pictures. She basked in God’s glorious creation all around her. She fiercely loved her family and her neighbors. She loved. She lived. And in her living and loving she taught us lessons of infinite and eternal importance without ever writing a lesson plan.  She poured more life and living into her short years, than most people do in ten lifetimes. When the end was near and exhaustion was mercilessly gaining, her husband called and asked if I had a few minutes to visit with her.  Dropping everything at the tiniest chance to give to this matchless giver, I raced over. He said she was tired and that a few minutes would be all she could muster.  Whatever she wanted. Whatever she needed. So we talked and talked and laughed and reminisced and before long, she asked her husband for an old photo album which together we wandered through with waves of emotion swinging from giggles to tears. It was precious, precious time. A deep and lasting gift from her which I will forever cherish.  We shared time, the priceless treasure. The gift had nothing to do with the right most eloquent  words to say or the loveliest purchased present; to be sure, and any thought to any of those would have diminished the true gift which was simply shared, treasured, beautiful time.  A perfect time that I was blessed forever to share.  Time. She passed and left the world much more beautiful than she found it.   To be continued…