Audio version: https://soundcloud.com/critterkin-jena/going-awry
How many of you have direct experience with of the old adage, “The best made plans of mice and men often go awry?”
When it comes to teaching, I think that saying should be changed to read, “The best made plans of educators will almost certainly go awry at some point.”
And I would argue that’s a good thing! Here’s why.
Human beings are storytellers and trial and error learners. We’re hardwired to need excitement and challenges to grow. So when life becomes routine, or the outcomes of our stories predictable, we get antsy and bored, and start looking for new adventures.
When I first met Gloriann two years ago, my latest plan (and I’ve had many in my life) had not only gone awry, but morphed into something I barely recognized.
I’d just completed the 4th book in my children’s book series, CritterKin, and was all set to begin the 5th, when I started getting requests to do video conference calls with classrooms outside the United States.
The next thing I knew, I was planning and hosting an eight-week, global reading, writing, and creativity challenge with 169 schools in 16 countries, and 99% of it was done virtually.
Being a dutiful teacher, I had a three-part plan all laid out for those eight weeks.
- I wanted to help kids fall in love with reading and writing;
- I wanted to use story and creative projects to help kids experience and explore topics like being different, bullying, and perfection; and
- I wanted to use technology to teach some important 21st century skills like empathy, collaboration, and creative problem solving.
But of course the students and teachers blew my plan out of the water. They didn’t just read and write about the themes in my book, they explored them by creating rap songs, games, and videos. They took selfies, wrote slam poems, and taught themselves how to use all kinds of programs and tools so they could meet and learn from each other.
It was one of the most astonishing and eye opening experiences of my life and has redefined how I see myself and my work.
You see, if you’d asked me two years ago what I do for a living I would have said I’m a children’s book author and illustrator.
Now, I say I’m a creative advocate for kids. I still write and illustrate books. I still do author visits and encourage kids to read and write, but now it’s with the goal of empowering them to find and develop their passions and discover what makes them each unique.
In our increasingly complex and conflicted world, in which 65% of the jobs our kids will hold have not yet been invented, I am committed to helping them grow into kind, creative and competent adults who are comfortable with change and understand that even the best made plans are meant to go awry.
If you’d like to know more about my work and join me on my latest adventures, please visit the links below. I’m especially excited about a new podcast I’m launching called CritterKin Kids and would welcome your thoughts and suggestions. You can learn more at http://CritterKinKids.com
Copyright 2017 by Jena Ball. All Rights Reserved.