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Creativity, Education, Leadership, Teaching

Don’t Squish My Ish – Inspiring Creators

There are a lot of people out their suffering, because they are not sharing. If we are not creating, we are consuming. We need to be creating more stuff.  ~ Peter Reynolds

Stεrεoscopıc rhızomıng lınεs . .

flickr photo by jef safi

I blog as a reflective practice. I blog to dialogue with colleagues. I blog to share ideas and I blog because I enjoy writing. But, I have a confession. I also blog because I enjoy seeing the final product. I enjoy the feedback, and, yes, I enjoy seeing my blog stats. Knowing that in some way–and by some people–my thoughts and opinions are valued.  For me, blogging is about creative expression…an opportunity to produce something and share it with the world. You may not see why, or agree with my reasoning, but I am proud of my work – a feeling that I believe every student, in every classroom, deserves to experience.

At today’s Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development(ASCD) conference, I attended several sessions that dealt with enhancing student creativity and helping kids learn by applying their knowledge to real-world problems.  I don’t think it is possible for us, as educators, to overemphasize these two skills.  21st Century students should be problem solvers, producers, collaborators, publishers, difference makers…and proud of their contributions.

Today’s keynote address focused on creativity in the classroom and was given by illustrator and author, Peter Reynolds.  Mr. Reynolds has illustrated the Judy Moody series and has written and illustrated books such as The Dot, and Ish.  He spoke about how educator’s can foster creativity in their students, emphasizing the importance of making a conscious effort to learn about their talents and interests.  According to Mr. Reynolds, the most important question we can ask our students is: who are you? In addition, he outlined four follow-up questions to help us gain a deeper understanding of student goals/interests (or adults for that matter):

  • Where have you been?
  • Where are you going?
  • Where are you now?
  • Where would you like to be going?

Mr. Reynolds emphasized that this type of guidance and encouragement from a teacher contributes to what he calls the North Star Effect – one may only need to change a student’s life direction by one degree to have a huge impact (think of a ship’s heading and the difference one degree will make over a lengthy trip).  This is great advice for all teachers to keep in mind–small things can make a significant difference.

The book Ish describes a young boy, named Ramon, who lacks confidence in his ability to draw a vase.  Can you think of any students who struggle with self-esteem when it comes to a content, concept or skill?  Ramon’s fortunes and confidence make a dramatic improvement after his younger sister describes his drawing as “vase-ISH.”  After this, Ramon begins to view his drawings in a different light and allows ISH-like drawings to set him free from previous constraints and notions about the quality of his drawings.  One small comment, an affirmation of sorts, making a significant difference.

Although the book is fiction, the premise is very real, and the lessons valuable.  Near the end of his presentation, Mr. Reynolds encouraged the audience to make students promise not to “let anyone squish their ISH or the ISHes of the ISHful around them.”

As a teacher, or school leader, are you an ISH squisher, or do you encourage ISH-fulness?  Give kids time to pursue their interests, encourage them to be creators, and allow them to make a difference.  It will make you feel great-ISH.

If you would like to know more about Peter Reynolds, check out his Guide for Using The Dot and Ish in the classroom.

About azjd

Junior high principal by day, aspiring difference maker, and Jedi in my own mind. Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.


5 thoughts on “Don’t Squish My Ish – Inspiring Creators

  1. Thanks for sharing Reynolds’ work, Jeff, these seem like meaningful reads, and I love the questions he posed for helping our students (and teachers) learn to value and pursue their personal interests!

    Posted by Lyn Hilt | March 28, 2011, 10:54 am
  2. Terrific insights! I like how the approach advocated here not only inspires creative thinking in students, but also addresses the whole child. When a student realizes that we care, he or she can learn much more readily.

    Also, I love the North Star Effect–inspiring a tiny course adjustment for a child and thereby helping to steer an adult to all-new possibilities. As Robert Frost said, taking the road less traveled can make all the difference.

    Posted by Rob King | March 28, 2011, 11:11 am
  3. I love your quote “21st Century students should be problem solvers, producers, collaborators, publishers, difference makers…and proud of their contributions.”

    The final sentence is the key to this quote. Encouraging students to collaborate with each other and feel a sense of accomplishment in their work is what online educational tools should be all about.

    Posted by Shana Ray | March 28, 2011, 3:06 pm
  4. Right on Jeff! Yet another great post and window into where we need to focus our attention. It’s funny, but the minute I saw the title I immediately thought of Reynolds and his book Ish and to my amazement your post revolved around the author. I truly wish that we an educators begin to have more student led conversations revolving around direction and discuss where they feel they need to go. Far too often we assume that we are the only ones to hold the educational compass and guide. Interesting thought anyway. Nice work!

    Posted by Adam Truitt (@mountainteacher) | March 29, 2011, 2:56 pm
  5. Right on Jeff! Another great read and view. I love Reynolds and how he subliminally writes his messages in his works. I find that far too often we don’t have that open dialogue with our students and then take from it direction. Why is it that educators feel they are the only ones who can hold and navigate from the educational compass. Nice work!

    Posted by mountainteacher | March 29, 2011, 3:10 pm

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Jeff Delp

Junior high principal by day, sports enthusiast, technology fanatic and jedi in my own mind. Striving to be a difference maker!
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