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Improve Your Life Through Art
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR LIFE THROUGH ART
I have taught hundreds of students over the past fifty years at community colleges, private schools, and private studios. One thing I’ve noticed is that many of us believe that creative people are gifted. They are born with certain creative talents and those who are not imbued with these special inclinations are doomed to an uncreative life. Example: “I can draw a straight line!” Or “I can’t even draw a stick figure!”
But they are wrong. What I have discovered is that we are ALL creatively gifted. As human beings, we are wired to be creative and this propensity served us well in ancient times. Think about it. We invented spears to hunt animals for food, we invented the wheel to get us where we needed to go, and we discovered agriculture by collecting seeds, planting them to feed our families. All of these and many more advances that led to civilization as we know it today were born out of our combined informational knowledge and creative efforts: observation, visualization, problem solving, imagination, and invention. All of these creative abilities enhanced our survival to the present.
The parts of our brains that were developed for inventing, imagining and solving problems are very much alive and well in our brains today. If we recognize our innate creative abilities and adapt them to our future creative goals we see that we can contribute greatly to the enrichment of the human race. Unfortunately, many cultures, including our own, often discredit the power of creativity as an important unifying global development factor, preferring more primitive and aggressive tactics like war, repression, and political domination.
In America today, we like to think that supporting math and science in education ensures our educational dominance. And, in the global community, indeed, these skills are very important to our progress. But if only memorizing and reiterating facts drives education in math, science, and all other fields of learning, we are selling our students short, depriving them of the resource of creativity that will integrate them with global needs.
If academics deepened creative instructional applications such as problem solving, design, invention, research, and development, a richer learning experience would propel more successful students toward the global future. A full spectrum of learning, combining the basic knowledge required by the subject combined with the creative skills that require students to apply themselves, those skills to research, to invent, to visualize – this is the expansion of knowledge that we need to address a deeper, richer and more aspect. compelling motivation to improve our real and future world.
MY CREATIVE EXPERIENCE
In my own life I have experienced this creative transition, having applied my creative skills to reinvent or solve problems in various jobs. In the teaching of art. I have worked to instruct and develop this same transition in my students who come from many backgrounds including: psychotherapy, engineering, medical technicians, writers, authors, retail associates, and financial consultants.
When I was little, I used to draw and my parents and grandparents would congratulate me on the drawings and paintings I did. I was told I had an artistic talent. And, of course, his praise made me continue to draw and paint.
My teaching experience brought me into contact with people who from the beginning had the same drive to imagine, visualize and create, but were discouraged from going further. Rejection from an instructor, family member, peer, or no encouragement easily destroyed his fragile and growing creative drive. As I said earlier, we are all difficult to create; it is the part of our brain that gives us the ability to progress in our lives beyond our daily tasks, schedules, routines and past commitments to imagine, visualize and yes, dream.
WHAT I TELL MY STUDENTS
When my students tell me that they would like to learn to draw or paint but haven’t done anything in years because someone said they made a stupid drawing or that real learning involved memorizing facts and figures and that anything creative it was fluff, they apologize; as if their need to paint or draw was a silly waste of time even if they were so compelled to do so. I tell them that their pursuit is great and noble because its full enrichment involves not only knowledge, but inspiration. I say that they already have the ability to create and it’s time for them to start learning how to reap the rich rewards of their creative efforts.
This dialogue touches a broad demographic: the young, middle-aged and elderly who need to improve their lives in some way. My younger students often feel disenfranchised by a society that emphasizes rote learning. My middle-aged students feel that they have lost something vital in their lives: that they want to create, learn to draw or paint because their work and even their recreation has not satisfied them. Older students often feel that life has passed them by, even if they have been successful and retired comfortably. These are the common profiles of the students I instruct and this is their main core topic for needing instruction. What they all share is the need to use a part of their brain that needs to be activated and has not been activated through their daily lives and endeavors.
CREATIVITY IS A LOCATION
Creativity is a place we go. It has no limits or definitions. I know this location from my work as an artist and can see this location connecting with students. There is a palpable change in thinking when this location is accessed. This place is a safe haven for inspiration, to meet your innate creative self, the one that connects you to your dreams, imagination and visions. It’s often a scary but powerful resource that feels curiously good and improving.
Much research and development in many fields, such as medicine, science, literature, computing, is done through the combination of knowledge and inspiration. Knowledge alone will not build a better product, idea or world. Knowledge has boundaries, fences, and barriers that often prevent inspiration from entering to progress toward a higher goal or need.
A student of mine once commented after I gave my “Inspiration vs. Knowledge” lecture:
“Okay, so I guess that means that when I write, if I correct my mistakes by word checking, that doesn’t necessarily improve my writing. So, I can use a protractor or a compass in my drawings, but this doesn’t will ensure that the drawing is improved.”
This comment has stuck with me over the years. Yes, knowledge is a template, but it also requires an infusion of free-thinking, the swimming stuff, the primordial pond that grows new ideas that can evolve into exciting applications to improve the world.
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