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Entries by a MOOC participant

The Reflecting Pool: Why Do You Teach?

Sitting back reflecting on the whirlwind that was the 5 Habits of Highly Creative Teachers, a sort of MOOC that was the product of an idea and a passionate tribe, I am finally able to do what we asked each participant to do…reflect upon the experience.  You see, reflection is probably the most creative habit of all.  The process allows all the ideas that have been percolating in your head to manifest in words that reveal a part of you, a part of your learning, and personal expression.  And that’s creative!

As one of my tribe said, “and remember it is not your entire magnum opus…just a piece of it.”  So, I have assembled my thoughts, and hopefully I can weave a tapestry of meaning from the experience to share with those who were on the journey and for those who are interested in igniting their creative, bodacious selves in hopes of sparking more of the same in their learning communities.

So it starts at the end.  In fact, an email that I received from my Mom who has followed the journey.

“As you and your colleagues summarize the results of your efforts consider this: Teaching is the essence of preparing our children to be better citizens of the world: why do you teach? why do you advise students to better prepare for life: why instill creativeness: and why does their education prepare them to be citizens of this global world and instill the desire to serve. This comes from my remixing of the words and themes of the new president of Randolph College, Bradley Bateman, whose fervent belief in the liberal arts education as opposed to the ones that teaches only for a career preparedness has endeared him , not only to the college I attended but to liberal arts colleges around the US.”

Check it out, my 80 year old Mom who was adamant that remixing was plagiarism — is embracing it here.  And, as moms tend to do, she provided me with exactly the words that had been swimming in my head.  As educators, we instill creativeness in our students to prepare them for LIFE!

The last 5 weeks have been an amazing experience — from the realization that my team and I were able to bring this idea to fruition — to the engagement with participants all over the world — and finally to the results of the journey, which manifested in digital artifacts, blogs, and heartfelt thanks from those who made it to the finish line.

As Melissa Goodwin writes:

“We wanted to change education.  We met a lot and had many discussions about creativity over 9 months.  We wrote manifestos and shared links.  We spent tons of time and energy and didn’t get paid.  We decided on the curriculum style.  Then we changed it.  Then we worked through the design process.  Then we tried to get funding.  We didn’t get funding.  Then we partnered with Canvas to use their platform.  Then we changed our design again. Then we talked a lot more.  then we changed more stuff.  Then we took a 2 week break.  Then we freaked out.  then we made videos which took many takes and tons more time. Then we got brave and started to ask for wild crazy things.  Sometimes it worked.  Then we just DID it.

So, what did we learn?  We learned that there is a definite need for this type of professional development for educators.  We started with the idea that we wanted to do something different and unique that was not just your standard Professional Development marathon.  We wanted something that would stick — and that meant linking the work to personal development, because after all, creativity is personal expression.  If you are able to experience this in yourself, as an educator, you should be able to create the environment in which your students can experience their own creative expression.

In addition, it is clear that MOOCs can provide profesisonal develpment for educators.  It’s just that there are not enough educators who realize that this opportunity is available.  It means getting institutions to support the work and offer graduate credit or recertification.  Yes, we need incentives for professionals who choose to devote their time off to professional development.

We proved that a global online community can be an intoxicating adventure 24/7.  We learned what we already knew — that teachers are passionate about their craft.  They need only be given a safe and inspiring environment to practice new ideas, to fail, to be curious, to connect.  If teachers experience the excitement associated with learning, don’t you think they want to bring that to their own learning communities?

But, I digress.  Because here is the meat of the matter.  this was a personal journey.  This was different because we asked each participant to be vulnerable.  To uncover for them their own personal creativity.  That was scary.  And for some, it was a turn off.

“I guess it was not what I was looking for. I did find an idea that I will use in my classroom in the fall related to curiosity, however. That being said, the other sections of the course were too vague, complicated, and personal for me. I was not looking for affirmation of my own creativity as much as ways to develop the trait in my young students. You lost me on the remix.  Our district is very involved with Google and the use of Google Drive and related apps is most important at the moment.”

For me, the most important thing is the PERSONAL reflection and engagement that I experienced and how that will help me continue to encourage educators to explore their own creativity so that they can ignite that spark in their students.  The focus on growth mind sets becomes even more important as we continue to focus on fostering creative habits.

“In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.”  

So, back to being vulnerable, what was my own personal takeaway?

Creating habits is not an easy task.  Embracing the Austin Kleon’s idea the 15 Minute Habit that will Change Your Career seemed a reasonable place to start:  “What I mean by that is one little bit of media that you push out every day, some little piece of your process that you share with people,” he says. Set yourself a daily goal: one photo on Instagram, tweeting the favorite sentence you read that day, doing a blog post about something you love.”

For me, that means translating into        Make Art.  Every Day.  Period.  

“True art is characterized by an irresistible urge in the creative artist.”  ~Einstein

This habit allows me to reinforce the art of building my tribe and remixing.  You’ll laugh at some of the things that I do.  How about this one?

The art of creating habits was further reinforced when I joined Apple’s Fitness Program today.  You will love this question:  If you were asked to write a book called “The Habits of Highly Effective Exercisers,” would you know what to include?  I thought of Jill Duplessis a former colleague who participated in the 5 Habits journey.  Jill had never heard of a MOOC before, never blogged or tweeted.  She successfully completed the journey and now tweets and blogs as motivation for participating in the Vail 10K.  Exercise is a definitely a great habit to practice.

For me, that translates into my goal of 100 handstands in 100 days.  You see, it is all about discipline.  Just do it.  Get rid of the fear of failure, flopping on the ground, needing a wall.  I’ve wanted to be successful in this for some time, and this course has provided me the motivation to practice.  It also reinforces failing and thriving.  One day, I will be amazed that I was ever challenged by this feat.

Check out this video:  Powerful Handstands

What does it come down to?  Practice.  The old adage Practice Makes Perfect.  Practice allows us to continue to develop and reinforce our habits.  It rewires our brains.   Being curious, engaging in remixing and tribe building, failing and thriving and reflecting on the outcome allows us to pursue our own personal creativity.

Photo courtesy Heng Swee Lim

Photo courtesy Heng Swee Lim

Why do I teach?  I teach because I am passionate about learning.  To echo Bradley Bateman, why instill creativeness?  As a teacher, I am convinced that tapping into the universal well of creativity makes us more human, enables us to be curious about our learning, enables us to transform ideas, to build relationships, to strive for success and to reflect upon our own learning.  That’s Life!  How can we help our students practice the art of creativity?

If you want to read more about the journey, please take a moment to check out the blogs from my fellow tribe members, Tracee Vetting Wolf, Maureen Maher, Melissa Goodwin and Strawberry Olive.




12 comments on “The Reflecting Pool: Why Do You Teach?

  1. Jack Thompson
    July 27, 2014

    Cathleen…Maureen…Tracee…The Three Creatateurs…what a successful project!!!

  2. cathleennardi
    July 27, 2014

    Thanks, Jack. So successful we’re going to run it again in the Fall. What are we thinking??

  3. Tracee Vetting Wolf
    July 28, 2014

    Cathleen — love your post!! I want to build on what you’re saying about ‘practice’. This past weekend I was thinking out loud to my 8.5 year old son “I think I want to take some drawing classes.” [some background: I make a drawing for my son every day and put a note on the back of it for his lunch box]. He says: “But mom, you already know how to draw!!!” Of course that made me beam inside. I do know how to draw. I told him I’d love the additional practice so that I could improve and learn new things. Since that conversation, I’ve been thinking about ‘knowing’ vs ‘practicing.’ Being creative isn’t a static thing you have the way you have knowledge … it’s a practice, a way of being and a ‘reach’. I’m joining you in your handstand practice! And I have a few other practices that mean a lot to me that I’m working on. I love the idea of describing myself in terms of my practices – how refreshing!! Thanks for the thought provoking piece!!

    • cathleennardi
      July 30, 2014

      Thanks, Tracee. I think practice brings us to a different level in our art. Once we have rewired our brains and apply it every day, we then start to notice subtle changes in our ‘art’ and in ourselves. It is not only practicing, but as you constantly reminded us during the design phase of the course, we have to ‘listen’ as well. I love that you make a drawing for you son everyday. It would make a wonderful blog!! And it would capture the sweetness of his childhood.

  4. Dave Young
    July 29, 2014

    I enjoyed this blog. I too am (now) passionate about learning and helping others to learn. Your reflections are very interesting. Missed the course – doing other things. But registering with Stanford on ‘Open Learning – Changing the Global course of Learning’ starting September.

    • cathleennardi
      July 30, 2014

      Thank you for the feedback Dave. I did see the Stanford Course and am tempted. However, it looks like we will be running this course again starting October 6 and that may take up all my time. Appreciate you stopping by!

  5. Dave Young
    August 1, 2014

    PS Cathleen! It is practice WITH FEEDBACK that makes perfect

  6. cathleennardi
    August 2, 2014

    It is so true!!

  7. 4c3d
    February 14, 2015

    “As educators, we instill creativeness in our students to prepare them for LIFE!”
    A “nail on the head” statement, thank you Cathleen.
    Life is a series of challenges and opportunities and their is no “fix it” manual. All you can hope for is the creative vision to make the most of whatever comes your way. Without it, “creativity” you have to rely on others and we know how that turns out.

    • cathleennardi
      February 14, 2015

      Thank you for stopping by Kevin. I am passionate about it, as you can see!

  8. Jack V Matson
    February 14, 2015

    I teach because more creative magic occurs in that process than anything else in my life. Previously, before teaching, I tried engineering and law, but little or no magic. Here after 41 years of teaching, the magic is still there!

  9. cathleennardi
    February 14, 2015

    Your magic is inspirational Jack. Embracing creativity has changed my world forever.

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This entry was posted on July 27, 2014 by .
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