The Creative Classroom
I start the school year talking about how language is all around us. It’s in podcasts, YouTube videos, songs, movies, TikToks, prayers, plays, memes, conversations, love letters, stories, social media posts, text messages, inventions, discoveries, proposals, presentations like TED Talks and Shark Tank, the news, politics, sports, quotes, interviews, advertisements, charts and graphs, it’s even on clothes, signs, and paintings.
We transform the informal thoughts and ideas of consciousness into formal, public exchange, what we call communication. When we communicate, in a way, we inspire, we learn new information, we come to understand a point of view we never considered before. We learn about a place we’ve never been.
But inspiration can come from many places and words have their limits. To bring my year full circle, I like to have conversations about anything and everything, and that includes the wordless world, too. My students present on anything that inspires them or gives them hope. It could be skateboarding, playing an instrument, a painting or museum, a photograph, making clothes, playing a sport, or cooking food. These creative arts are not different from the creative world of literature. They generate conversation and stories about living and passion.
When a painter or athlete practices their form, they craft a world of their own making. They imagine a style and a space that is familiar and wonderful. They pay homage to their ancestors and carve a path that could, like all great art, last forever. When we witness someone master any skill or overcome any obstacle, it makes us believe in greatness, in possibility, in prosperity, in the benefits of competition and collaboration.
At the beginning of the year, I put some random object in the middle of my classroom and ask students to describe it, first on paper, then in conversation. The object is just as important as the thoughts and feelings it inspires. The artwork on the wall is just as important as the conversations about it. School doesn’t need to be something where students think, I’m good at this, I’m not good at that. Of course, students can have favorite classes, or excel in some areas more than others. But they should also see the big picture where science, technology, current events, music, poetry, politics, design, and athletics all serve the same function as symbols of hope, beauty, and progress.
English language arts teacher
Teacher's Workshop, professional development for secondary ELA teachers