Things I Know 42 of 365: I can’t anticipate imagination

Imagining something like 9/11 wasn’t failure of preparation, it was a failure of imagination.

– Paraphrasing of Diana paraphrasing Donald Rumsfeld paraphrasing someone Diana couldn’t remember, but the sentiment stands.

The Building History Project was pretty imaginative. Changing up the way my students complete 2fers and revise using Google Docs felt like imagination. The free choice in reading and accompanying structures of learning about my students’ reading skills and preferences strikes me as a creative remix of some old ideas.

Still, I’m me. Just me.

My ideas are going to seem stymied compared to the collaborative creativity of students who have far fewer years of being told they can’t do something.

For the past few days, we’ve picked up on the collaboration we started with Jabiz Raisdana last week.

My role has been minimal. Halfway through a class period, I played Jabiz’s song composed of the students’ responses to his Flickr set. Then, I played Bryan’s. Then I played Noise Professor’s. Then, I read this message Jabiz sent my students through the collaborator e-mail function of the shared google doc we’ve created to track the project:

Then I said, “Ok, what do you want to create?”

The ideas broke down into four basic groups: music, text, photos, film. Still, I was worried that might be too limiting, so I asked if anyone wanted to do something else. A few hands were raised, so “Something Else” became the fifth group.

After a brief show-of-hands poll asking who was interested in participating in each of the groups and telling them to take note of who else was raising their hands, I gave the key instruction: Ok, create something.

And they grouped up. They were lying on the ground, sitting around tables, sitting on the window sill, discussing how to make something that didn’t exist yet. No one asked how long it had to be or when it was due. I’m not anticipating either of those pieces being problems.

I sat in on a few groups.

In one music group, they’re planning on recoding Jabiz’s original song. Newon asked, “Mr. Chase, can you e-mail Jabiz and ask him for the chords from his song?”

If I’d designed what they’re doing, I’d never have imagined asking for chords. I probably would have limited the groups to four as well. Voices would have been silenced.

I showed Newon how to find Jabiz’s e-mail address in the google doc and message him.

Checking e-mail after school, I found this:

None of my state standards, call for me to have one of my students in Philly e-mail a teacher in Jakarta to get the chord progression for the song he wrote based off of my students’ poetry, but I’m going to stick to my guns and say the learning’s still valid.

Eventually, I wandered over to the Something Else kids.

Tim said he was working on a way to create a piece of sculpture inspire by and including Jabiz’s photos and the photos coming out of the photography group. He was doodling on the dry erase tables to show his friend TJ what was flitting around in his imagination.

Ian told me he wanted to create a piece of art incorporating the original lyrics and inspired by Noise Professor’s mix of the song.

At that point, a music group checked in to say they were going back to the original comments to add lyrics to their version of the song.

Meanwhile, Luna decided to create a space to hold all of the creations and asked if she could be the webmistress.

Sure.

Then she named the project – Stones.

She ran it by the class who had no problem with it, and Jeff came over from the photo group to make sure they could embed their posterous account on the page.

And I checked in, and watched.

I asked questions and offered ideas.

Some were answered and accepted. Some were ignored. I took no offense.

Creation’s a great way to wrap up a Friday. Sure, we took vocab quizzes and edited analytical essays and read books. By the end of the period, though, we balanced it with creativity.

Rumsfeld and Diana would be happy. And you have no idea how difficult it is to please both of those two people at the same time.

3 thoughts on “Things I Know 42 of 365: I can’t anticipate imagination

  1. Let me start by thanking you for documenting this on your end so well. It makes me so happy to hear what your kids are doing. From my end, it feels quiet, but great to see so much action. A few lines struck me as very powerful from your post: how to make something that didn’t exist yet. No one asked how long it had to be or when it was due. I’m not anticipating either of those pieces being problems.I mean this is it right? We are all talking about student engagement and inquiry and interest and creation and connection and all that jargon and this is what it looks like. It may be a bit raw and unplanned for some teachers, but this is what it is. It is fluid and moving and we don't know where it will end up. I find beauty in that. You are right when you say: None of my state standards, call for me to have one of my students in Philly e-mail a teacher in Jakarta to get the chord progression for the song he wrote based off of my students’ poetry, but I’m going to stick to my guns and say the learning’s still valid.But there is learning here. And rather than try and put it in a box, let's let it grow and nurture it and see what happens. I mean if your kids create sculptures based on my photos, or my kids write poems based on pics from Philly, than we have really blown the roof of this Jawn! I have emailed Anna and Newon back and will wait to see what comes next.

    • I'm glad the kids finally started building a site around this so I can just
      point folks to the “About” section I'm hoping will eventually be built. I
      told the classes that you'll be in Hong Kong next week, so we have some time
      to create. One of their questions was whether or not you'll be able to get
      some teachers there on board with creating with us. Luna is toying with the
      idea of making the site globally editable so, that could be a place to hold
      everything.

      It is raw and unplanned, and beautiful. At some moments yesterday, I felt I
      was in the Mythbusters workshop. It's the closest I can come to explaining
      the energy in the classroom.

      Excellent use of “jawn.”

  2. Pingback: Things I Know 43 of 365: We can tell stories better at Autodizactic

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *