I’ve been writing this blog for a little over a year now. It’s subtitled “a blog on creativity, in our schools and in the workplace”. My most recent post, “Party On” touches on creativity, only in the sense that one of the most creative teachers I know was recently fired. By far, however, “Party On” has received more hits than any other post I’ve written. There may be several reasons for this. A) I’m getting better at letting the world know about what I’ve written and how to access it. My learning curve creeps up the Y-axis. B) My former colleague and I have many alumni in common. The sad news spread quickly through this alumni network, especially given my friend’s popularity. C) Perhaps most distressing of all, there is a great deal of interest in news about the current lack of regard for teachers in this country. Over the year, three of the most popular posts I’ve written have been about the plight of teachers: “Party On”, “The Mailmen”, and “Demoted to Teacher”. These posts, seeking honor for the profession, and seeking for those in the profession to honor themselves, seem to strike a nerve. I’m curious why, and I’d be curious to hear what any readers think.
As for my recently fired friend, here are a few of the comments from former students:
“WTF? He was one of my favorite teachers.”
“This is just so wrong. (He) is one of the best teachers I have ever had. I credit my writing style and voice to him. I can’t believe they pushed him out. It’s a shame. AND he is such a cool guy on top of it all.”
“He was unbelievably important to me, always encouraging my creativity. So sorry to hear this.”
“What a shame. He was one of the best teachers.”
“Great, so now no students will be allowed to bring coffee to morning classes (this is not a trivial point - as you know teenagers' circadian rhythms are programmed to wake up circa 10:00, and with a morning class at 8:15, I had to get up, shower and dress at 6:30 to get to the Westside from Brooklyn by 8. Students in Queens and the Bronx had it much worse. That coffee was an act of mercy.), to go to the park to write poetry reflected on overheard conversations, be read to from William Carlos Williams, played the audio recording of Lee J. Cobb performing Death of a Salesman, or introduced to the music and life of Bill Evans, all of which changed my life.”
In a recent TED talk (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6-VRO8G5LE), Sam Chaltain, one of the most important speakers and writers on education in this country, talks about the key components of a learning environment: It is challenging, engaging, relevant, supportive, experiential. My friend provided all of these. More important, he allowed students to discover and express what Chaltain calls a biological urge to speak, an inherent need to express ourselves, to be seen and heard. Good teachers do that, help others find a way to speak for themselves.
I take it as encouraging that the times when I’ve written about the frustrations and obstacles teachers face, I’ve found an interested audience. Not, I have faith, because people enjoy the suffering of teachers. Rather, because there are teachers and learners out there who are looking for a better way, and are sympathetic toward and eager to learn from those who will help lead the way. This blog, then, will continue to be about creativity, in a search for better answers, in support of those who lead the way. I stick firmly by the quote from William Carlos Williams at the side of the site, “the imagination will not down…”