I love roadtrips. I love to drive and see new things at ground level. And I find that every roadtrip I take has a profound effect on my thinking. This one my wife Betty and I took over the Christmas, New Years holiday this year was no exception. We drove to Florida stopping along the Atlantic Coast. On the return trip we went inland where our first stop was a small north Florida town, White Springs, known for its hot springs and Stephen Foster’s Swanee River. This small town with one restaurant, a Dollar store, and four gas stations because it is on US 41 supplying a constant stream of trucks, and one B&B where we stayed. The town has clearly seen better days though it is trying to rise again. Though Stephen Foster is highlighted in the town with a huge and beautiful park and visitor center, he never actually was there and found the name Suwannee while looking for a southern river to write a song about.
The B&B is a small, quite and very unpretentious house. Judith calls it a boarding house bed and breakfast. Curious about this work in progress with painted windows decorating its porch and a book or two by her on the coffee table, at breakfast I asked about her past. She told me she had taught in Phoenix for some 25 years but retired four years ago. She taught mainly Hispanic and Native American third graders. She said she retired because she no longer enjoyed teaching. She loved the kids and it was obvious to me that she was a great teacher. “Teaching,” she said, “was no longer creative.” The curriculum and the lessons were dictated. The principal would come into her classroom to make sure she was following the lesson plans defined by the district. She was sure here students were learning less and certainly enjoying it less. She could not be creative nor could her students.
With a long trip to Chattanooga ahead of us we could not stay and talk, but I have heard this story so many times in the last couple of years I was sure I could tell it. What creativity there was in education has been driven out, the arts are nearly gone; the opportunity for teachers to develop their own lessons, all but gone; and the chances for kids to let their imaginations roam, well when are they tested on that. Judith’s story may be all too familiar, but for me it was profound and personal, very personal. For we share a dream, and I hereby dedicate this website and blog to that dream, the dream of productive imaginations, the dream of schools rich in creative experiences, the dream of children loving learning because they are creating it.