I wrote this quote several years ago and realized how it still rings true. Teaching is one of the hardest jobs in the world, but it’s also one of the most rewarding. Although my role has changed and I’m lucky enough to teach teachers, teach students, and teach myself on a daily basis, I’m still a learner first. I updated this one with some fun colors and a mosaic background, because our teaching life is made of millions of tiny learning moments, melded together into one unique experience that makes us who we are as a teacher. And that? It’s something pretty special.
Hi. I’m Krissy. When I created my Twitter handle and blog name of ‘Venspired,’ it was never my goal to become ‘Venspired.’ I probably can’t explain it completely, and I won’t try, but there is something said to having to be completely true to who you are to be truly creative. I don’t want to be a ‘brand’ and it’s time to just be me.
I never wanted a blog where I felt like I had to create something just to post it. I don’t create things because I want to. I create because I have to. It’s a part of me, like a basic human need of breathing and eating.
Somewhere, long before I even graduated high school, I got caught up in some race. It was a race, that once I looked around, I realized I was running against myself. The race to the next thing. The next degree. The next conference. The next school year. The next checkmark on an achievement that meant something on paper, but nothing in my heart. I’d like to think I slowed myself down, but the truth is, what stopped me was a series of events, intersections of wise people in my path, and even some unbelievably hard challenges. And when I slowed down to look around me, I realized how fast I was trying to go.
My days are filled with teaching kids, helping teachers, troubleshooting technology, and dreaming up ways to bring innovation alive in education. I work with the greatest people and get to play, explore, and push myself to keep learning. My heart is full. I love technology, I’m
enjoying obsessed with the maker movement, and I feel like I have waited my whole life for people to acknowledge creativity isn’t the afterthought of learning, it’s in the fiber. I’m still going to blog about those things, not because it’s trendy or I want Twitter followers, but because it’s me.
Because Venspired was really just a made up word, but Krissy Venosdale is that little girl that sat in a classroom when she was 8 years old, listening to her teacher teach another lesson, and she just wished, so hard for most of the day, that it was time to break out the art supplies and create something. And the only way I can really rescue that little girl is to be that same girl now.
Every single child in your school is a message to the world. Some speak in writing, some in song, some in code. Others speak in paintings created with their hands. Some have a raw talent for crunching numbers. There’s even a child or ten who has a a deep passion for understanding the stories of our past. There’s a kid making Origami who can’t get enough of engineering with paper. There’s a bunch of students who are on a waiting list at the library for the new book in their favorite series.
There’s a student who struggles to see patterns the way others do. There are kids who see words differently than you or I. There are kids who don’t want to get messy with paint. There is a child who is more bothered by the tag on their shirt than any “consequence” you could impose for their meltdown.
There are kids waiting to be something they are rarely invited to be.
Not the kid described in a teacher’s guide, nor the kid that fits in “Class A” or “Class B.”
The kid that is exactly who they are. What is their message to the world?
You won’t hear it unless you listen. And if you only listen for words, you’ll miss it even more.
We’ve spent forever celebrating a few skills like great handwriting, work completion, memorization. Sure, those things make for nice looking assignments. But do they tell the message?
It’s time for the artists, scientists, engineers, twirlers, hallway-skippers, introverts, doers, thinkers, writers, poets, journalists, problem solvers, Lego builders, deep thinkers, water color painters, paper folding, gadget geeking, history researching, language lovers, creative paper airplane designers… and more… to have a place where their message, in whatever format is their way to share, is not only welcomed, but heard.
Can we honestly say that we’ve honored every kid in every school for exactly who they are? I’m not talking about a gold star or a blue ribbon. I’m talking about the kind of honor where we help them believe in what they can become.
Until we can all answer “Yes,” with total confidence, in every school, in every corner of the world, we have work to do. And it’s probably one of the most important jobs in the world, maybe one of the hardest, but it’s definitely the most rewarding.
I’ve written a million things about the struggle in the learning. I have watched JFK’s Moon Speech with students. I’ve even hung posters that said “There is great learning in the struggle.”
Because when it comes to a struggle that I am in the midst of, I hate it. I despise when I can’t figure something out. Now, the quiet struggle of finding an answer to building something challenging, I’ll take it. But the big internal struggle when you are learning things with moving parts and to get the whole thing moving, you must fail. Fail. Try. And fail some more.
And it’s hard.
Not like, ‘ouch I stubbed my toe’ hard. But like, ‘man, I gotta walk away for a bit and come back to this.’ Like, ‘my brain feels stretched.’ But you’re all in, invested, and you will figure it out.
Whoever said, “Mistakes are proof that you’re trying,” was secretly wishing they’d never make a mistake. In fact, they probably thought by saying it out loud, they’d feel more comfortable making mistakes.
But, that’s a lie.
Learning, as it turns out, is extremely uncomfortable. Get over it. Embrace it. Despise it. Laugh at it. Admit it. Talk about it. Talk through it. Move past it. Learning is hard. It feels impossible. It’s riddled with mistakes and trials.
But if it wasn’t? It wouldn’t be learning at all.
Every night a read a research article or a book chapter that pertains to my dissertation study. I’m working hard to narrow down to one question. My previous topic, on public school gifted programming, no longer felt like something that fit where I’m at today. Nor did it feel like something relevant to making change in education. I knew when I tossed around the idea of changing, I’d be picking something in creativity. This, along with some timely coincidences in professional development, led me down the path of the Maker Movement. I already know making is awesome. But what I really want to know is how to help teachers find their inner maker.
“I’m not creative,” is something we hear often in schools. Teachers, especially in public school, have had the creativity squeezed out of them like water from a sponge. Every. Last. Drop. Scripts and guides have replaced free thinking and open inquiry. Teacher’s ideas now must take a back seat to something someone in another location, who probably doesn’t even work with kids, wrote.
Last school year, we had a professional development day. Topics like jewelry making, photography, city history, and more were offered. Every teacher was encouraged to sign up. You didn’t have to be the “art teacher” to take jewelry. Nobody said you needed to be the social studies teacher to take the history class. It was purely being a learner and growing.
So as I get deeper into this topic, I am asking myself many questions.
- What if PD stood for play date?
- What if the passion for learning was supported more often?
- When it comes to the Maker Movement, how do we provide the best kind of professional development for teachers to explore these new tools?
- How do we differentiate tech PD?
I don’t believe in badges for PD, but I think if PD were more fun, it would be better than a badge. Because it would relight the fire that helped make us all want to teach in the first place. And if we really believe in the benefits of student driven learning, then shouldn’t our PD match that model? Learner driven. Whether you ‘re a teacher or a student, you’re a learner.
I’m sure I’ve just barely dug past the topsoil, but I’m about to break through some rock to nail this topic down. If we can help teachers see themselves as learners, embrace making, take risks, and find the joy in learning, we’ll change the classroom environment.
Or I could just keep delivering that PowerPoint lecture…
“Bueller, Bueller… Anyone, anyone?”
I think I’ll take my chances with the research.