Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Creative Profession

What other professions are as creative as teaching? In the advertisement section of today's newspaper is a Back to School ad from a crafts store offering artist gallery wrapped canvas "buy one, get one for 1 cent". That is a good deal that a teacher can make use of because that is all we do as teachers. We don't hesitate to roll out a fresh piece of canvas constantly as we prepare, erase, edit, and hone our planning ideas. A teacher has the privileged opportunity to choose from endless options how to offer the curriculum for students.
From choosing the quantity of content to present in a lesson, to selecting the approach that will be used to "hook" the students into becoming engaged with the content, to deciding how students will bring forth prior knowledge they have about the content, to wondering about how the students will interact with the skills and knowledge involved with the content, to offering application opportunities for the students to experience their new abilities, the choices go on and on. Teachers also craft how they will motivate the student learning. This decision is influenced by the rapport and relationship the teacher has with the students as the school year evolves. The teacher is continuously diagnosing everything possible about each of the students in planning how best to connect the new content with the nature and interests of the students.
There is another level of creative planning that is taking place at the same time but on another plane of thinking. That would be the decisions the teacher is making about the style of his/her own personality that the teacher will use to share himself/herself with the students. A caring teacher will pay attention to their role and manner of being that they will use with the students during the lesson. It is not just about the content, the lesson plan, and the students. It is about the role and style of the teacher during the lesson, too. The personal attitude that the teacher has during the lesson will influence the learning by the students. One habit I developed when teaching middle school mathematics was to say out loud to the students before teaching a new skill, "oh, I love teaching this skill to students for the first time!" Not only did saying this out loud intrigue and grab the students' interest, but it always revved me up, too. And, honestly, I meant it when I said it.
When the teacher consciously thinks about and plans for the excitement and intensity that he/she will bring to the lesson, not only will it become a part of the lesson, it will be positive and purposeful. And isn't that what a professional does? The professional actor or athlete does not only plan for their script or their physical movements, but the part of their planning that makes the difference is their own motivation and energy level they plan to bring to their performance. Just like the master teacher.


  1. Thanks, Deb. When Dan asked you why you have to plan after having taught for 11 years, this is what came to my mind.

  2. What a great post. We forget about all the planning around building relationships and developing the kind of social context that supports learning. This year I'm really focusing on group process the first few days. Each time the students worked last week I asked them to reflect on how well they were using the norms for group work.

    I would add one more paragraph titled "planning on the fly" that's all the stuff you change when the copy machine is broke or you can't get the website to come up for your lesson. Great post at this time of year. I think teachers are always a little better planned the first few days.

  3. You are correct. There are so many layers and perspectives to planning as well as time-related layers of planning. We adjust our plans up to and during every lesson. I have always loved how so many of your science lessons are so dependent on your outdoor classroom lab! That is why your students see science understanding everywhere they look, because you don't just teach the concepts in your physical classroom inside the school building. Your course should really be titled "outdoor earth education"!

    It is amazing to think about the infinite number of planning ideas we have throughout every day. That is a similar realization to the infinite number of questions WE answer from students every day! I wonder if there are any occupations where there is as much spontaneity as we experience in teaching?!