Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Here are a few of the things teachers are expected to do: Plan activities for students in advance, written as lesson plans that can be followed by substitutes in the event of their absence. Deliver those lessons. Prepare tests and other means of measuring performance, then submit reports on student performance. Protect the students from harm, injury, hurt feelings, bullying, and the consequences of poor judgment. Serve as a role model for reasonable (if not inspirational) adult behavior.

Some of these tasks are administrative, and some involve actual delivery of instruction. Some teachers are good at the administrative end, and may not be so hot in the rest of it. Some teachers are energetic, creative and enthusiastic with a classroom of students, conveying a great love of learning, and may be faulty at their administrative duties.

Are familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality index? It provides insight into personality types and is useful in developing greater understanding of ourselves and each other. If you place credence in such things your realize that it takes a variety of personality types to make the world work and to make our civilization interesting and successful. From an administrative standpoint, the best teachers are the ones who get their grades in on time and fulfill their administrative duties on time and without complaint. From the standpoint of a student, looking for excitement, enthusiasm and engagement in learning, the best teacher may be someone else, entirely.

Just as all teachers are different, most teaching environments are different as well. Some have a higher tolerance than others for a creative curriculum that may risk occasional disruption or even failure. How about teaching the kids to carve with knives? That would create panic in most schools.

If you look at schools in a simplistic manner, you might see them as roughly spaced along a line stretching from cold administrative order to an extreme of creativity bordering on chaos. Along that line, most schools are clustered tightly at the cold end. There is little room in those schools for the kinds of teachers who come to school unprepared, but fully engaged through their creative imaginations to motivate, inspire, and model the kinds of enthusiastic engagement that students will need to live inspired lives.

I became interested in Myers-Briggs when I went through a episode of depression and sought help from a therapist. I have a tendency to live my life on the edge of creative chaos and I'm married to a librarian. One of my wife's major talents is to push chaos into the far reaches of life. Do you know about the Dewey Decimal System?

One of the things you learn from Myers-Briggs is that we are different within a range and that we have different strengths and what I'm hesitant to call weaknesses. They are natural to us and are part of what makes humanity interesting and diverse. Allowance for diversity energizes the school environment. It makes a school more like real life and opens the doors for real life to become a much greater part of the learning experience.

My point here is to speak on behalf of the messy artist type (no that is not one of the named Myers-Briggs types). Messy artists enliven the school atmosphere, infect the children with creative notions and confidence. They may not be the best at getting report cards done on time. They may seem scattered and ill prepared. They may push buttons and push limits. But make way, remember Myers-Briggs and let yourself be surprised by the results... Having been a part of Clear Spring School, I can tell you what happens. The students love learning, and love of learning travels with them as they move through life.

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