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In My View: Are We Shortchanging Our Students?Joy VarnellPublished online: 22 Oct 2012.
To cite this article: Joy Varnell (2005) In My View: Are We Shortchanging Our Students?, Kappa Delta Pi Record, 41:2, 52-53, DOI:10.1080/00228958.2005.10532043
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watched students imaginations f - - grow increasingly weak. This
experienced teacher had ob- served his students quality of writing decrease miserably, and he put the blame on television. Today, we have all the problems my chi Id rens generation had, plus computer games and the present emphasis on standard- ized testing.
Teachers are advocates for children and, as such, many of us are alarmed at the lack of time for creativity. While standardized tests are important, we always must teach those things that are in our students best interest. We
Joy Vaniell, iulio is currently iuritirig her doctoral dissertation a t Azirsa Pacific University, has taught elemeritaryschool for more than 20 years. She holds aiz adjunct position a t College of the Desert and supervises s tudent teachers a t California State University, San Bemadino, Palm Desert campus.
constantly must ask ourselves, Is this the best possible use of my students time right now? Sometimes the answer will be that the best use of our students time is to give them time to create or imagine.
N u rt u ri ng Imaginations We may be shortchanging our
students if we are not careful to nurture their imaginations. Peskin (1986,259) wrote, lhe reality of accountability has persuaded educators to focus too strongly on the test scores and too little on the child as an individual with a unique history and needs. Bowing to the pressure of current accountability, many teachers plan their days, and even their school years, around these tests: and many beneficial activities routinely are set aside so that students can be taught test- specific information.
Elkind (2001) warned that school can become a mere factory where knowledge is pumped into children with no time to imagine or create. While we all want our students to perform well on standardized tests, we cannot let the tests dictate everything we do in our classrooms.
The Value of Creativity What, after all, is the value of
individuals imaginations? First, a creative mind is its own reward. A childs imagination gives child- hood a unique richness. Second, as Gardner (1991,711 observed, lhe capacity to take a stance toward everyday reality-to confirm, deny, or alter it-confers enormous new power to the child. Finally, imagination transports children and adults alike to places they may never go. Children try out professions by playing teacher, firefighter, or
52 Kappa Della Pi Record Winter 2005
other career roles. Children transform cardboard boxes into forts, race cars, and robots. Afternoons spent lying under a tree building castles in the air are not time wasted, but time iniagin- ing what might be.
Pragniatists can be relieved that practical uses for imagination abound. It took a great deal of imagination for Charles Goodyear to dream up vulcanized rubber. Benjamin Franklin certainly exercised his irnagination when he decided to fly that kite with the key attached. If children do not develop their imaginations, future advances i n medicine, technology, and the arts might never happen. Without nurtured creativity, childrens minds may be i~nable to conceptualize a cure for a new disease or solutions to other problems we have yet to face.
of imagination, we also are enriched by the contributions of active iniaginators such as Mark Twain, Steven Spielberg, and Theodore Geisel (the beloved Dr. Seuss). How dull life would be if we had only real-life situations to contemplate! I am thankful for great iniaginators-inany of whom have sent me soaring on my own flights of fancy.
Aside from the utilitarian uses
Time to Reflect and Write Writers of all ages must have
time to reflect before they write. Reflection is part of tlie writing process. To tlie inexperienced eye, a child staring off into space is wasting time. A teacher often asks, Why arent you working? The outwardly indolent, but inwardly busy child replies, Im thinking. What goes on the paper must first go on in the mind, where deep ideas, words, and sentences are
constructed. Sometimes children think through an entire story before they begin to write.
Priori t izi ng Activities As educators, we must
prioritize the activities we plan for our students. While teaching to standards, we should consider that sonietimes activities which require creativity, imagination, and play may be the best possible use of our students time in school.
Time-honored aids to developing and encouraging imagination in tlie primary grades are abundant and inex- pensive. Blocks, building logs, dress-up clothes, books, art paper, and art supplies are but a few. I n K All Day, Francis (1998, 29) quoted Michael Ensler, a child development specialist, as saying I do think we do too much too soon with most children. I think were in too big of a hurry. Theres an awfiil lot of pressure on kids. The job of children-their work- is play. Wilford (2000) found five literacy goals (developing sym- bolic processes, language growth, problem solving, persistence in literacy engagement, and plea- surable connection with literacy activities) that can be reached by encouraging childrens play.
should not be left behind when children leave the primary grades. All students imagina- tions can be encouraged through open-ended questions, problem solving, and hands-on projects. Teachers probing questions can lead students to find divergent solutions to problems. Higher- order thinking can be encour- aged through science projects, model building, and writing projects.
Carving Out Time Teachers must carve out
time for students to develop their creativity through play and other imaginative activities. In primary grades, a few minutes of free t i m e-w i t h a p p ro p r i a t e props-can foster creativity. These supplies, along with puzzles, clay, mirrors, and math manipulatives, are all suitable. In middle-school grades and above, one teacher provided storytelling and story theater activities to teach creativity and alternate ways of thinking about problems (Lees 2003). She
advocates for children and, as such, many of us I are alarmed
a t the lack of t ime for creativity.
carefully blended these drama activities with the state frame- work. While she encouraged her students active use of their ima- ginations, she also met standards. If we use our imagi- nations, we all can create time and ways to nurture our stu- d en t s creativity.
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roo lrrsr roo soiiti. 3rd etl. Cnmliridee. MA:
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I.ces. S. li. 2003. Personal coiiitiiiiiiiciitiiii~ to Joy Wirnell. lutie 5.
Ieskiii. M. 1:. I98G.Tlie ticctl lo retliiiik tlteorics and practices of kiiitlergartcn before extending its day. I