I watched my Sawyer try lift a laundry basket full of beach toys off the deck to carry to the lake. He couldn’t do it. Knowing his learning is in his struggle, I forced myself to avoid doing his work for him and thus, cheating him of a chance to develop his thinking. I forced myself to not get up and carry his basket. Sawyer studied the basket, trying several times to lift it. He could lift it up but not walk with it.
He studied longer. Soon he ran across the yard to the dock and returned with a long yellow rope. I have no idea where he had it hidden the rope or why he remembered it.
Next Sawyer tried several times to tie the rope around the basket, eventually figuring out he needed to loop it through the handle. That done, he pulled the basket across the lawn, toys falling out in a steady stream with each bounce and tug. The basket was empty when he reached the beach. He studied his empty basket for a moment and then declared victory.
Sawyer ran with his basket up and down the beach and up and down the dock. When I brought Everette to the lake, he studied her for a while and said, “Put her in here”.
Everette instantly had a redneck wading pool.
Sawyer tried to pull Evie in the basket with the rope. He couldn’t budge her. He threw his rope and ran down the dock, calling over his shoulder, “I will pull her with the boat”. At that point, I thought it wise to step in.
How did Sawyer become a creative problem solver? How do we ensure each student at BPS develops the same skill set? Our teachers, parents, students, and business leaders told us what they want in the 21st Century BPS graduate. Please note the ability to be creative while investigating and applying critical content.
Dewitt Jones advises that creativity isn’t magical or mystical or confined to art production. We are all artists, inventors, problem solvers with beautiful answers within us, provided we really care and we:
- Break the pattern. Creativity is a matter of perspective: Sawyer looked at a laundry basket and saw a sled and then a wading pool and then, heaven forbid, a water ski;
- Learn to be fearless about making mistakes. Every act can be a creative one: it took Sawyer multiple cycles of attempt-reflect-refine before he got his laundry sled moving;
- Reframe problems into opportunities, train our technique: Sawyer was unable to lift the basket on his own yet he has not learned to be dependent on adults. He knows his problem is his to solve, and he had discovered his yellow rope had multiple uses;
- And finally, every day, look at the ordinary and see the extraordinary. There’s always more than one right answer: Sawyer invented a sled, a wading pool, and was on his way to a baby-laundry-basket-water-ski before he was shut down.
Much of American education community has fallen victim to believing our work in education is to produce the best students in the world. Hear me clearly: I am a fan of bright kids, but I believe our work is to produce the best students for the world. And to be the best for the world, young people be continually immersed in that “radical balance” of content acquisition and collaborative application. By designing learning around that, we put BPS students in the place of most potential.
I send my best to each of you in the 2016-17 school year. Thank you for your service to the students and families of BPS.