In January I began a deep dive in Elena Aguilar’s Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators and the accompanying workbook. I hope to share some of my reflections as I build daily habits to strength my own resilience and support that growth in others. Aguilar outlines a habit and a disposition for each month of the year. Follow along as I reflect on each month’s key ideas.
March’s habit is to play and create and the disposition is courage.
Aguilar begins the chapter discussing art and its purpose. She connected play and create to March knowing that many educators have spring break over this time (myself included!), recommending that we add some play and creativity into our lives at this time. She also makes a point to encourage us to add creativity to staff meetings or other work events to build resiliency.
In my last job, my team and I would meet once a week. We decided to add a creativity-building section to our weekly agenda. Each week one of us was responsible for designing a short activity that would hopefully inspire some on-the-spot creativity. One week we worked with Play-Doh (inspired by my young nephews at the time!) and another week we made objects out of colorful masking tape. Our time was less about the outcome and more about the process. We experimented with putting this creativity at the beginning, middle and end of our meeting, to see if it sparked our thinking more one way or the other. I don’t think we ever came to a definite decision about the timing. What we were inspired to do, however, was include these types of moments into other meetings and professional development workshops we planned and facilitated. We knew that creativity was something we wanted to cultivate in our teachers with the hope that they would then cultivate it in our students.
As I was rereading the next section of this chapter, about art, I came back to Aguilar’s reference to the underwater sculpture park by James deCaires, which I googled last time I read this part. This time it is even more fascinating to me because one of his underwater parks is located off the island of Grenada, which I happen to be visiting in April. Now I’m hoping to be able to snorkel to the area to see some of the sculptures! If you haven’t seen images of this amazing art, check out the artist’s website!
Speaking of art, my friend Lauren and I have recently started a fun museum challenge, that is part play, part art appreciation, and part creativity and competition. We visit a museum together, but split up to visit different wings. We spend time looking at the art, and then making funny Snapchat pictures of the art with our own humorous (at least to us!) commentary. We found this idea from other people sharing their museum challenges online, and it inspired us to visit museums and have some fun. We have done this twice, and not only has it helped remind me how much I appreciate work created by talented artists, but it also reminded me how much fun it is to be creative. Coming up with funny captions for artwork takes time and attention to detail. If this sounds fun to you, I encourage you to try it! Fell free to Google it for examples, but be warned that many of the examples are not-safe-for-work kind of humor.
I love what Aguilar has to say about creativity and schools:
“Creative processes enable us to see the root of a problem or see a situation in a different light; we can make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena and gain new perspectives. Creativity and its cousins- imagination and innovation – are the missing ingredients in many school reform efforts. School transformation almost always relies on deeply creative thinking.” (Onward, p. 259)
When I think of courage, I think of crucial or fierce conversations. I think of challenging racism, sexism, or other -isms that create division among people. This is big COURAGE. But courage can also come in a smaller package. Courage can help an introvert step into a crowded room of strangers and start up a conversation. Courage can also encourage (see what I did there?!) new behaviors for a better life.
How to be courageous – I love this idea Aguilar shares in the Onward workbook – make a list of ways you can be courageous. Write as much as you can, then pick some that speak to you. Keep that list handy and act on it! My list has some big and small ways I can be courageous.
Idea to try: Another fun idea in the workbook suggests that you go out around your school/ community and take pictures using non-conventional angles or views. Then you put your pictures together in a slide show to share with colleagues to see if they can recognize the objects or locations you photographed. I think this would be a fun way to connect across a large school or district and to incorporate the community at large.
As I reflect on this chapter, I appreciate how play and creativity and courage appear in my life when I need them. But I am also saddened by how infrequently these ideas appear in many schools. I know that as a teacher and a new administrator, I could have done more to incorporate and encourage play and creativity in my work. After rereading this, I am inspired to encourage others to help our learners play and be creative in meaningful ways.
Posts in the Building Resilience series: