Everybody is the Creative Type (and HMW use dt as a methodology for curriculum design?)

Today with Creative Confidence


I am embracing the idea that creative confidence is a “way of seeing . . . your place in the world more clearly, unclouded by anxiety and doubt.”   With this way of seeing as my foundation and relying on my creative mindset of “a powerful force for looking beyond status quo,” I am now thinking about how to engage my creative energy during my summer of intentionality.   During my summer of intentionality, I am laying out goals for the work I want to accomplish and tracking my progress for meeting these goals.

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This approach I hope will allow me to return to school rested, without the underlying anxiety that I did not “do enough” or “think enough” about the 2018-2019 school year.

It was then invigorating to read that what keeps us from being courageous, from cultivating our creative confidence, is that there is paradoxically comfort in our uncertainty.  Shaking away the uncertainty, I have decided to work through this text as my way of challenging the status quo of course/curriculum design. (And I am deliberately not researching this idea because I don’t want to feed my fixed mindset of thinking that someone has already done this — proposed how to use Design Thinking for curriculum development.)

So what happens when we thinking about DT as a curriculum design methodology?  Do we combine it with the ideas of IBL and UbD?

The Kelleys see innovative programs as balancing three factors:  feasibility, viability, and desirability.  Finding the sweet spot in this triad is where design thinking works and finding it in curriculum design can be where students learn best.  For me, when thinking about design as curriculum design methodology, I see feasibility in education as a reminder for teachers to consider what we already know and believe about child development and pedagogy.  Will what we are proposing fit in what we know about how students learn?  Thinking about viability in education, we remember that our courses must live within the framework define our school’s mission and norms.  Will this course design support our mission and fit into our school’s culture?  Finally, desirability in education connects this methodology to Inquiry-based learning as we seek to connect our design to what student passion.  How do we learn what students hold as their core beliefs and how to leverage these beliefs for motivation?  In learner-centered design, we look for students to engage with content and skills that they feel are critical for success. Are these the same as what we as teachers feel are necessary?  And if not, do we let go of our own beliefs or do we encourage students to consider our ideas?  If so, how do we encourage students to look beyond themselves?

Using design thinking within the classroom as a methodology for inquiry-based learning is an authentic way engage students in innovative, interdisciplinary problem-solving.  This month I will explore how I can use design thinking within a curriculum development methodology to design a six-week course module focused on Shakespeare and Ellison’s Invisible Man.

Pre-reading Questions for Creative Confidence by Tom Kelley and David Kelley

Image result for creative confidenceStarting my MVIFI Summer + Learning today with Tom Kelley and David Kelley’s Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential with Us All.  Today I will start with questions, following a strategy I’ve taught students to use when tackling an unfamiliar text.  Asking questions prior to starting a text leads to greater comprehension while also providing students with their own inquiry into a text. Starting with questions is also a norm at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School.  What follows here is my brainstorm of initial questions I have prior to diving into the reading.


  • What is the Kelleys’ definition of creativity?  Does it differ from my own idea that creativity involves an aesthetic appreciation of life and its truths? (This summer I am very interested in truths.)
  • What does it mean to have creative confidence? Is this a belief in your ability to make something worthwhile, something aesthetically pleasing, something meaningful?
  • I am participating in Enhancing your Professional Creativity workshop at SCAD later this month, and I am wondering how this text will connect with the work I’ll do in Savannah.
  • Charlie Rose is quoted on the dust jacket, praising the authors for sharing their secrets about “find[ing] out creative power.”  I wonder if the authors are concerned that Rose has lost his credibility as a journalist.  I wonder if this quote will appear on dust jackets printed for later editions.
  • I wonder what type of work I’ll need to do while reading.  Brené Brown mentions being inspired by the “real-life exercises” in the text.
  • A creative way of thinking, creative mindset, asks us to empathize with users while innovating and to tell compelling stories about our innovations.  My own inability to get out of my head when I am writing stymies my storytelling; I find myself clicking tabs on my browser instead of writing.  Will I learn how to get out of my head and turn off the internal censor?



Digging into Voice — The Poisonwood Bible

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For the next few weeks, we are learning the skill of close reading, what I consider to be the act of picking a

part language in order to reveal meaning.  Today, we dug into Ruth May’s first chapter in The Poisonwood Bible, uncovering her voice by noticing figurative language, diction, syntax, selection of details, and tone. After today’s classes, I am wondering how we can move past identifying her voice as “childish” in order to develop the overall meaning of her chapter. Her presence in the novel.  Does she innocently and matter-of-factly tell us the truth?  Or are her observations and re-tellings of what she’s heard sifted through her filter of misunderstandings?  Why does any of this matter?

The Poisonwood Bible is one of my favorite novels to re-read and teach.  I hate Nathan each time I re-read — and I try to empathize with the pain of his survivor’s guilt.  I come close, but then Ruth May dies, and I focus my empathy on Orleanna.  The changing point of view in each chapt

er reveals so much more than character traits and plot because we see the story through five pairs of eyes, the eyes of imperfect women and girls trying to make sense of life and their role in the village.  Yet they make little sense of things while living in the village; they must leave it in order to look back and cycle through their memories, each under their

own misperceptions.

Tonight, the students and I are close reading an excerpt from Rachel’s first chapter, analyzing her voice and


how it reveals meaning.  Her first sentences — “Man oh man, are we in for it now, was my thinking about the Congo from the instant we first set foot.  We are supposed to be calling the shots here, but it doesn’t look to me like we’re in charge of a thing, not even our own selves.” — suggest an irony about her observations, her understanding of the situation that the other members of the Price family do not recognize.   Why is it important that we notice Rachel’s use of malaprops, even when her sisters do not? How does Rachel’s vanity filter distort her observations? What can she tell us that Ruth May cannot?

Our practice in close reading this novel hopefully will help us understand why we read literature, priming our pump, so to speak, for our PBL challenge — Why should AP World students read literature?


Why Literature?

I love literature, reading literature, talking about literature, watching literature on the big and small screens. I especially love teaching literature; I love working with students when they discover how authors create meaning.

Today, I began my 15th year of teaching standing in front of an AP Lit class, thinking about how we tear into literature, how we look for patterns in language and symbols, and how we use these ideas to examine a text’s significance.

Preparing for today, I grappled with the controversy surrounding Advanced Placement courses or more specifically, the controversy with the battery of standardized tests in May.  Like the majority of those in Advanced Placement courses, our students want the AP course on their transcript and would be thrilled to earn a 4 or a 5 on the exam.  I want our students to instead find their joy digging into a literary text, putting together the puzzle pieces left by the author.  And I wonder what would happen to scores if we concentrated on reading, analysis, and writing skills and not on practice tests and timed writings. I do not have the courage to try this, not yet.

This year I have the courage to “PBL” our AP Lit curriculum with driving questions that will lead to action.  This year our AP Lit students will wrestle with “Why Literature?” while tackling literary analysis and its place in the “real world.”  For this unit, Identity and Culture, my seniors will figure out how to persuade AP World Studies students that reading literature can reveal cultural values.

I’ll keep you posted.