This is a continuation of a blog post about feeling idea-less and employing strategies to unstick myself.
4. PRACTICE BRAINSTORMING LIFE.
An additional exercise, which I’ve been inspired to by watching my friend Tonia, who is a fount of ideas. It sounds simple, but like anything, it comes naturally to some and it takes conscious practice for others of us.
The exercise is to take the moment I’m in, or the day I’ve had, and ask myself,
- “What kinds of stories could I tell out of this?”
- Or “How could I turn this into an essay or article or post?”
- Or “What does this remind me of or connect to?”
It’s basically a brainstorming exercise, the kind I ask my students to do…but somehow forget to do for myself. I have every faith that it works for my students, so why don’t I apply that faith to my own situation? The time to apply is now.
Last Thursday, I had a freaking nutso-busy day. I had to run a learning walk with teachers from two schools, and then I had to run a live discussion for my online English class that I teach. It ended up being a good day overall…but I was sucked dry.
However, I was mindful of trying out this intentional brainstorming activity, and here’s what I came up with in fairly short order:
- The difference between a sport coat and a suit coat (I actually didn’t know that the same coat could be both)
- Instructing low socio-economic students in the art of dressing for business/interviews.
- Direct instruction vs. collaboration. Just because the student isn’t doing visible demonstration of thinking right this second doesn’t mean he’s not thinking and learning. Yes, the proof will be in the demonstration, tomorrow during their job interviews—higher stakes can be excellent motivators—but sometimes students need to ingest some modeling. Write about the email I got and my response and then our observation.
- Assumptions are killers. Assumptions about what our kids know. Assumptions about what they can’t do. Assumptions about our knowledge and understanding of their world. We need to ask rather than assume. This came up a number of times in today’s learning walk conversation.
- Learning from each other as professionals—the learning walk process. Trust the process. What it looks like for us. Write a description of our learning walks and the philosophy underpinning then. Could be an article for an education magazine.
- Improving one’s practice (regardless of what that practice is)—requires self-reflection and introspection, and a willingness to admit fault and own failure, and an acknowledgement that it is only after the failure that the learning and growth begin (Lewis Thomas)
- Writing modes idea generation tool—use it myself. Write the methods and process and an example taken all the way through.
- Should I do a teacher blog? I’m not the most stellar teacher. I’m not National Board Certified. I’m not Teacher of the Year. I’m not S____ [a colleague]. But I am an inquirer and a thinker. And I do wish to practice these things mindfully and intentionally in my own classroom. And I do see the results of their practice, even at the low levels of implementation that I employ. Write about teacher fear and teacher attempts.
- Even people who don’t go to school and who grow up in abuse can become amazing, educated teachers and humans. Write a character study or an interview of J__ [a colleague].
In terms of idea generation, any of these could generate a blogpost or an article or essay. Not bad work for a few minutes’ time. Hmm…maybe there’s something to this brainstorming thing I’ve been advocating to my students all these years. Haha!