Amanda Geren is a technology teacher at a middle-school in Lexington, KY. When she’s not enriching young minds, she can be found fanning her love affair with Excel spreadsheets, reading juvenile fiction and theological texts.
Many see creativity as a requirement for artists and designers, but not necessarily for the populace at large. Innovation adds interest, practicality, and value to any field: the chef who seamlessly blends wildly different flavors, the doctor who first used fungus as an antibiotic, or the traffic engineer who created the double diamond crossover. All of these people use creativity to solve a problem or create a new normal.
Having taught the same subject in the same school to the same age group for eight years, freshness requires intentionality. This purposefulness comes at a price of time, energy, and fighting against the second law of thermodynamics.
My first year of teaching was marked with overwhelming thankfulness and joy at a job that I loved with students that were fun, sweet, and eager to please. I could hardly believe that I got paid to do this.
Regretfully, the adage “familiarity breeds contempt” can weasel its way even into the perfect job, although I would probably replace the word contempt with complacency. After repeatedly dealing with similar issues, I can get easily frustrated at students who don’t listen or try or obey. I get chafed when they don’t understand something, especially if I feel like I have explained it thoroughly.
Last year, my goal was to enjoy the kids again. I ate lunch with groups of sixth grade girls on a regular basis. I organized a pen pal program with a local ministry to needy kids. I talked to them during lunch duty. I gave hugs, smiles, and praise. Last year was one of my best years. I love kids as individuals. Sometimes the group in class can be overwhelming when you can’t tell who is talking or you have 10 questions at a time, but the individuals are masterpieces.
This year, my goal, in addition to enjoying the students, is to be more creative in my lessons. I have plans from previous years, but instead of just repeating what I have taught before, I am adding to them: creating new games, inserting fresh videos, and being more interactive.
My first attempt was a technological fiasco. I had tested the program out beforehand, but my pre-class trials did not account for some of the issues. As I was feverishly trying to manage the system, the kids were chatting away at full volume. I figured it out enough to limp through the class and have since got it working, but that first class was marked with frustration, impatience, and stress.
Positive change doesn’t just happen. It’s too easy to fall into typical patterns. Sometimes it fails. Instead of falling back into our old routines, we need to get up, dust off our knees and try again until we succeed. Students respond to engaging lessons and I want that for them. I feel better as a teacher when the kids say, “That was so cool!” It’s worth the effort, but I have learned that creativity requires resolve.