Sunday, September 21, 2014

My Kids, My Inspiration

This post is part of the 30-Day Blog Challenge from TeachThought. To learn more about the challenge go to

DAY 21: Do you have other hobbies/interests that you bring into your classroom teaching? Explain?

I'm kind of a nerd in that the majority of my free time centers around education or my family. Besides being a voracious reader and casual runner, I don't have a lot of hobbies. Occasionally a book I read will relate to class, or running anecdotes will come up in conversation with students, but nothing planned or systematic.

Raising kids, however, has had a profound impact on how I think about teaching and learning. They never cease to amaze me with their curiosity. I occasionally write about my two sons (ages 10 and 7) on another blog site, which is strictly for family. What follows is an edited version of a post I wrote for that site last year.

My oldest son (9 years old at the time) showed this to me one morning. He had written this guitar music in bed the previous night. Each line was composed to represent a different character in a game he designed. Some of the lines are chords, and some are note-reading. Besides thinking it was cool that he wanted to compose his own music, I was delighted to see that he had taken such care and time in making precise staff lines and neat notes and handwriting. No one had to "tell" him to do this - he just decided to do it on his own and did it well because it was important to him.

The boys just finished the book, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda and were inspired to do their own origami. Now, we've had origami books and paper in the house since Christmas, and I've sat down with the boys to try to spark their interest, but it just didn't catch on. However, after reading this book, they went crazy. They found the instruction books and paper on their own and started folding. After making tons of swans by following the instructions in the books (as you can see above), they began designing their own origami - mostly in the Star Wars theme: Obi-wan Kenobi, Emperor Palpatine, R2D2, C3PO, Darth Maul, and a space ship. Others they designed are a hummingbird, a fish, and Viking ship. It was a good reminder for me that kids will learn something new when THEY'RE ready and when THEY'RE interested.

The older my own kids get, the more student-centered I become in my classroom. Because of weekly incidents with my boys at home, like the music-writing and origami flurry, I am constantly reminded that when learners are passionate about something, they'll endure all kinds of challenges in order to reach their goal. They'll learn more deeply, and are completely capable of doing so without someone constantly "nudging" them to work faster so they can reach some arbitrary deadline. It's because of these lessons from my own kids that I've eliminated tests from my classes and initiated Genius-Hour type projects. I'm constantly thinking, "Would my own two boys like to be students in my class?" For the sake of my students, I hope that answer is "yes."

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