Thinking (and acting) out-of-the-box

Creativity in action!


There’s a story (of course) behind that picture. As anyone who’s ever worked with me knows, I’m a big fan of creative thinking. Of thinking out-of-the-box. Why? Because that is the sort of thinking which stimulates growth, action, progress. Educationally, I feel it is my task, wherever I am, to encourage that sort of thinking because it pushes us to become life-long learners. Reaching is the only way we, the human race, can progress.

As I’ve worked with the fellow above, Reid, it has emerged that he is a learner after my own heart. CEG’s perspective is to, from the very beginning of the relationship, encourage the learner to take part in the design of their own instruction. Even with our youngest clients, we begin each session with a choice of activities. The student decides the order of instruction, when s/he needs a break, and which tools to use to complete a selected task. This is not just for fun (which it can be) or to push choice and decision making (which it does); this invests the student in their own learning and empowers the student. Why, you may wonder, empower such a young learner? Well, for many reasons. One is that we want, eventually, the learning to become intrinsically rather than extrinsically rewarding. And, we want that as early as possible! Another reason is, school is quite long for youngsters. Tutoring adds to that; they get tired! Why not make it an immediately rewarding, empowering experience?

There is always exploratory push and pull in the beginning of the process. Lots of questions from the learner! The student often wants to challenge the relationship by completing tasks which are not on the table. Instead of coming down like a hammer with an authoritative “NO!”, we explore those desires and see where they take us. You want to read a different book, one from the shelves? Let’s take that opportunity to complete a lesson on how to look up a book at the library. Or, to build our independence with communicating with the librarians.

All of that said, I have been working with Reid for over a year. He is a teacher’s dream. A brilliant child, the challenge has become keeping up with his rapid-fire brain, which works much faster than mine. I share the picture above, selfishly, to tell this story.

Reid loves money. Not for what it is used for; he loves the stories behind the presidents, the states, the artwork and sculptures depicted on coins and bills. Last week, Reid wrote a story, “Introducing the Penny”, and wanted to read it to me first thing at our tutoring session. Delightful. But, halfway through the booklet, he turned to me and said, “Don’t you want to put on your reading glasses? You always wear your reading glasses!”

“Oh!” I replied, “Certainly! I was enjoying your reading so much I forgot to! Reid, is that why you are wearing those reading glasses today?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Reid replied, “Everybody should always wear reading glasses. I made these so I could be cool, like you.”

The next session, Reid brought more pipe cleaners and made glasses for the little boy at the next table, who promptly put them on for his reading. What a wonderful, creative thinker Reid is, and how rich the rewards for this tutor.

Kate Cumiskey, CEG



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