The Missouri Reader WINTER ISSUE Vol. 44, Issue 1 - Page 22

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P is for playfulness, peacefulness, and passion.

Playfulness--We live in a taxing world. Our daily routine is dominated by responsibilities and overwhelming stories and statistics in the news. We can’t shirk our responsibilities and we are aware of the seriousness of our current situation. Even so, we need to take ourselves less seriously and remember the joy we used to experience when we got to play. We used our imagination, sought out humor and wonder, and lived with creativity and spontaneity. Anothony T. DeBendet encourages us in Playful Intelligence to “Become a keen observer of the wonder that emanates from the children you come in contact with” (2018, p. 230). Students love to play, no matter what age. Yet, often teachers feel pressured to push academics over play. Who says the two cannot combine? Educators are some of the most creative people, so surely we can find a solution to meet both needs. We need to take just a moment to review the curriculum and see how lessons could be more play centered and engaging (from Kindergarten to college classrooms!!!). Also, we must allow for student creativity in our lessons. As we foster playfulness and creativity, we promote development of the whole child. We should take time to play inside and outside of the classroom. Our students need it, and we do too!

Peacefulness--The stress levels are high. Our students and their families are anxious, so we need to work diligently to bring peace into our classrooms and virtual learning spaces. Students feed off the energy we give, and that means if we are anxious, our students will feel that, too. Likewise, if we are calm and peaceful, our students will be able to absorb that with us. One way to bring feelings of peace to the classroom is through introducing beauty and awe through art and music. Creating lessons with intentional activities of the arts are vital to well-rounded experiences that engage our learners. In the text, How the Brain Learns, author, David Sousa (2017) said, “Students learn to express beyond words through moods, atmosphere, or sounds, and to create works that convey a strong personal meaning” (p. 268). In the classroom, I (Rachel) try to fill lesson time with opportunities that engage art and music. Through my teaching, I have had a variety of ages, and it seems that no matter the academic level, there is always room for creativity. At younger levels, I teach them songs, at older levels, students compose lyrics (some students even delve into making music). As for art in the classroom, I allow younger ones to create. For older students, they can create art, study art and artists, or I can use pieces of art to open lessons and conversations. Utilizing lessons with artistic expressions provides a sense of peace, freedom, and wonder in the class. Nurture these expressions, especially now. With our world so full of unknowns, it is important to remind ourselves and our students that we can choose a mindset of peace.

Passion--Students have the most amazing minds, and we need to use them for good. I (Julie) absolutely loved the children’s book, The Most Magnificent Thing, by Ashley Spires! It is about the pursuit of passion with persistence. A little girl and her four-legged assistant work diligently to make the most magnificent thing. At first nothing comes out right. No one understands or sees what the little tinkering girl sees in her mind as the perfect creation. Through disappointments, frustrations, and both physical and emotional pain, she persists until she gets it right. She successfully creates the most magnificent thing! What a wonderful lesson we can learn from this book! I’m afraid we live in a society where we’ve lost the pursuit of our passions. We give up when things are hard, we escape pain rather than pushing through it, and we settle for what is easy or convenient. We might even be guilty of this in our teaching, thus settling for routines and mediocrity when we should be chasing our passions and encouraging our students to do the same. Yet Dave Burgess in Teach Like a Pirate (2012) would say, “Professional passion is an absolute treasure chest filled with everything we need to steadfastly refuse to enter the classroom with anything less than a burning hot passion for the awesome job and responsibility that lies before us.” When was the last time we explored or researched something we wanted to know more about or followed that dream to advance our career? When was the last time we allowed our students to abandon the worksheets to explore a topic of passion? My children both had a teacher for gifted education who allowed them to do passion projects where they explored a topic of individual interest and presented to their peers in a variety of ways. My children both loved the project from start to finish because the topic was important and valuable to them personally. Passion projects do not have to be offered only in the gifted education classrooms. We can, and should, encourage our students to persistently pursue their personal passions.

E is for empathy, effort, and enjoyment.

Empathy--Everyone is going through this strange time of uncertainty, yet we all process it differently. It is important that we try to think of what others might be going through. We should be sensitive to the needs of others while we are all processing in our own way. I (Rachel) enjoy reading We’re All Wonders by R. J. Palacio to my students, as it displays a beautiful picture of individual uniqueness and overall beauty. Within this story, we see a little boy physically different from peers. Yet, his mother describes him as a wonder, and inspires her son to see from a different perspective. Sometimes, we need that same advice--to have a change of perspective! The Earth is filled with diversity and all types of people. We might not be able to change our appearance, but we can change our perspective. We should seek how to empathize with our colleagues in this upcoming school year. Schools are filled with diversity, and we need to embrace it and grow with it. Once we begin forming our perspective of empathy, we, too, acknowledge that everyone is a piece in the overall puzzle. We are different, but we connect and come together, we form a beautiful picture. We need to recognize that not everyone will process the stress similarly, but we are all in this together.

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