I cannot teach anybody anything I can only make them think. Socrates.
This ancient truth comes to mind as we launch Teacher Appreciation Week, May 8-12, 2017.
In this age of standardized tests, teaching to test, for-profit schools, focus on optics and other short-term measures, Socrates’ words inflict sharp pains of cognitive dissonance!
Reflection leads to a deeper concern that the philosopher’s wisdom is lost – and that we are bereft with the harsh reality that creativity and critical thinking skills are a challenge to measure in society bent on measurable results. The results of creative and critical thinking show up not in test scores but in real life, in the sorts of informed, creative decisions we make as workers, consumers, family members – and voters.
Real life rests on symbiotic relationship between creativity and critical thinking. On the one hand, both are difficult to tech, impossible to measure. Creative people and critical thinkers start with questions, not answers – their penchant for question-asking does not measure well on standardized tests.
Creative/critical thinkers envision possibilities and have a sense that they have they have the capacity to overcome personal, societal or political obstacles along the way. In fact, they find joy and purpose in the very process of keeping an eye on the goal while analyzing the intervening steps.
All of this comes to mind as we launch this year’s celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week, May 8 through May 12, 2017. Sponsored by the PTA, the week encourages today’s students to express their appreciation with a quick and painless hashtag: #ThankATeacher – an appreciative high five!
And yet, teacher appreciation extends far beyond the classroom, into a lifelong expression of thanks we all owe to the teachers who taught us to think.
For the past couple of years I have observed and learned from the creative thinkers who have taken time to share their thoughts on Voices of Northeast. As listen each week have to realize that a common thread weaves through these far-reaching conversations – regardless of the age, gender, medium or circumstance of the guest. Whether poet, visual artist, photographer, book artist, bookseller or book publisher almost every guest recalls with love and appreciation a teacher who spotted and fanned a young person’s special spark. In warm and grateful words these lifelong thinkers talk about the teacher who planted and nurtured a seed of creative, critical, constructive thinking that has shaped their life’s work – and their life.
Teacher Appreciation Day and Week are not of the moment, nor can the appreciation be expressed in 140 characters. This year’s Teacher Appreciation theme is “Teachers Deliver” – a prompt to let a teacher know that the lesson of creative and critical thinking has been delivered – and that we and others are grateful receivers of the lesson.
In fact, we do remember and appreciate that it is committed teachers who inspire young learners to think creatively, critically and constructively — as Socrates understood the role of the teacher to be.
Critical thinking narrows and creative thinking expands, but they must work in tandem for problem solving and decision making.”―Pearl Zhu