In January, I read the book The Wild Card: 7 Steps to an Educator’s Creative Breakthrough by Wade and Hope King. The book is an attempt by the authors to explain how they call on their own creativity to engage their students. They provide an explanation of some key concepts, highlight a road-map for other teachers to follow, and end with a toolbox of their go-to instructional strategies.
The road-map to creativity offered by the authors consists of taking an honest look at where you are right now, committing to pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, identifying where your passion and enthusiasm are, and using your passions to transform your teaching while keeping rigor and expectations high. The authors provide the example of a teacher who is passionate about gardening and capitalizes on that passion to create engaging lessons. They point out that while gardening in and of itself is not a standard, the teacher found great ways of connecting it to standards. For example, gardening can be an entry point into the topics of scientific inquiry, life cycles, characteristics of organisms, ecosystems, natural resources, environmental issues, biodiversity, and heritable traits. My biggest take-away from this book is that creativity is a mindset that can be nurtured. We are not born with a finite supply of creativity and, as a result, we can (and should!) cultivate it.
In general, I liked the many real examples the authors use to illustrate the book. It is clearly written and an easy read. At the conclusion of the book, I find myself convinced that their classrooms are engaging, rigorous, and fun places for students. At various points throughout the book, the authors address some of the perceived challenges to adopting the kind of creative teaching they advocate for. I reacted negatively to some of this. At times, I felt that their solutions were overly simplistic. As I teacher, I recognize that I have the power to choose to be creative, to invest extra hours in preparing amazing learning experiences for my students, and to hunt for all the supplies that I need. But, I am very aware that we come from diverse backgrounds and work in schools with diverse cultures and resources. I acknowledge the power that having a particular mindset has, but do so being aware, too, that our personal and professional contexts are equally impactful.
February’s book is Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel.