Thank you all for a great semester filled with creative ideas and innovative techniques. My creative journey began here, and will continue from here…
Have a great summer break!
‘Catching up is no fun! Do not ever get yourself in the catch-up mode!’ I always give this advice to my student. So if nothing else, I should know.
The worst is the anxiety. It is so powerful as if it comes with saber-tooth and it chews up all traces of creativity and patience, but mischievously deposits a sense of panic.
It was under such emotion I started looking for Photoshop. I actually had a silhouette of what I wanted to compose for the project, but was struggling for the semantics of what a metaphor is. I looked it up. I had no trouble differentiating metaphors and similes. I can comfortably recite some of the classic metaphors, Life is a journey. America is a melting pot. It seems that metaphors usually have a verb in the phrase. So can it be a metaphor without a verb? Yes! I was happy to find Joe the Plumber on the top 10 metaphors in 2008! And Prince Charming is also a bona fide metaphor. A relief. My Imperial Doctor ‘Wen Tai Yi’ is a legitimate metaphor.
My next challenge is to make my product interesting and effective, to compensate the lacking of photo-editing elements. I would tell a story, with a beginning, a middle and an end, in an interesting way. I collected all the essential ingredients and verified their Creative Commons attribution.
I usually don’t seem to have any problem coming up with ideas. But I seem to encounter road blocks when it comes to implementation and using new tools. That is, actually, quite ironic. I always consider myself a 21st Century teacher who embraces technology, and has no trouble learning something new. But when it comes to Photoshop (which is not only a new tool, but an extreme tool), the YouTube Tutorials are no longer enough. I needed the time, and a More Knowledgeable One in a Zone of Proximal Development as suggested by the Social Development Theory by Vygotsky.
My technological attention shifted to iMovie which I used briefly approximately two years ago. Relearning should have a lesser curve, I was optimistically calculating. Once I got the ‘distractions’ out of the way, I was able to indulge in the creative process. It took me around six hours to put all the elements together in a way that I am happy with.
So advice from me to me: do not put myself in a catch up mode again.
A couple of months ago when we were discussing Chinese idiomatic stories and Chinese metaphors in my high school class, I used some of the commonly used English ones as examples. My students looked at me as if I were speaking Martian when I mentioned the phrase don’t throw the baby out with bath water! Their expression went from puzzlement, to horror, to disgust, to doubt .. well, that was quite common. Since English is my second language, when they do not understand me, one of their habitual reaction is that I say it wrong. Some of them quickly did a search online, and was still confused or even more terrified because they somehow left out the ‘don’t’ in the phrase.
We eventually burst out laughing about it. But the really funny thing is they have absolutely never heard of the phrase!
As I went on to bring in the second one, there was another round of disagreements and laughter. And, of course, more Google Search. They insisted that it actually meant, literally, the cats and dogs were being dropped from heaven when it rained! And they found a picture to prove it!
This was what they found: Raining animals is a rare meteorological phenomenon in which flightless animals “rain” from the sky.
This was what I found: raining very heavily. However, the etymology was slightly different than what I used to envision… dripping cats and dogs on the streets during a heavy down pour which is so heavy that even the poor creatures have nowhere to hide.
Nonetheless, we have this gap in literacy that a good representation of students today do not know/appreciate/understand these metaphors? how did the gap occur? These metaphors sound very ‘foreign’ to these post-90’s teenagers! They either have not heard of it, or have a different understanding of the metaphors. Is it an issue with the education (an easy target for criticism)? Retrospectively speaking, I did not learn neither one of these phrases in school, I learned them from TV or reading, then I looked them up in a dictionary or asked the native speakers about them. We all say that information is ubiquitous nowadays, then… what has happened to learning?
I believe that it is the attitude. I recently read a posting that goes something like this:
It is the mindset that drives one’s attitude,
the attitude drives the behaviors,
the behavior drives the habits,
the habits drives the personality,
and the personality drives one’s lifetime!
So what is the ‘mindset’, how is it formed, can it be influenced, are we born with it, do we acquire it? I don’t have an answer to these questions. What I do know is that in Chinese culture (does not mean that it is correct, I am just sharing what I know) , we do not speak of ‘mind’, but we speak of ‘heart’. We believe that everything, i.e. thoughts, desires, dreams, decisions, etc., originates from our ‘heart’, not in terms of the physical organ, but by a metaphorical inference. ‘Heart’ is what gives one’s livelihood. e.g. Home is wherever one’s heart is.
So if our ‘hearts’ are not in the right place, then we will not have the attitude we need for positive behaviors or productive habits to determine our lives. I can reiterate this message to my students till the cows come home, but for some of them, they have very apparent priorities that go the other directions. So in the end of the day, the best that we, as educators, can do is to lead a horse to the water but we cannot make it drink.
Empathy – the ability to step into the shoes of another person, aiming to understand their feelings and perspectives, and to use that understanding to guide our actions. ~Roman Krznaric
While Krznaric and some research suggested that Empathy is a ‘habit’ we can cultivate, I, on the other hand, believe that it is human nature that we are born with.
I learned that from my son, when he was two.
We were in the local supermarket. I was pushing the grocery cart while my two-year-old sat in the top of the cart. Suddenly, some baby burst out crying in the next aisle. My two-year-old was so concerned that he urged me to go ‘hold’ the baby. I told him that it was alright because the baby’s mother must be taking care of him. He persisted and said, ‘His mother must not be doing a good job’, and he continued to push me to holding the baby. That was when I knew that empathy is a natural instinct. He was confident that when he cried, I would be comforting him and holding him. By putting himself in the crying baby’s shoe, he understood the baby was in need of someone’s comforting. And his understanding guided his action to urge me to find the baby, to hold him and to comfort him.
Roman Krznaric’s Six Habits of Highly Empathic People outlined some very interesting ‘habits’ to think about. Some of them seem quite manageable such as Cultivate curiosity about strangers so that we can understand the world inside the head of the other person. Krznaric suggested talking to strangers, and that ‘all it requires is courage’, I might add that it also requires some risk taking as well, especially when we were brought up to not to talk to strangers.
Chimamanda Adichie’s Ted Talk about the danger of having only a single story resonates well with me, especially her following words,
“Single story creates stereotype.
The problem with stereotype is
Not that they are untrue,
They are incomplete, they make one story the only story.”
Empathy requires wisdom (and common sense).
Whenever I hear about the jump-on-the-band-wagon mass actions inspired by single stories, I wish that I had the creativity and means to bring empathy into the picture; or at least (by borrowing Adichie’s words again) to raise an inquiry… What if my roommate knew about the other side’s arguments on China One-Child Policy?! Or about the Tibet Movement?
As Seung Chan puts it in his Realizing Empathy video connecting creativity and empathy, ‘Only when you are willing to listen to a different perspective, will you be surprised by a new way of thinking.’ Here is the video.
Photos used in this article are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Symphony, as defined in Webster dictionary, is the consonance or harmony of color.
Its synonyms are balance, symmetry, harmony, unity, which are the design elements that we learned about in the first few weeks of our class.
So as a world language teacher, what does the ‘symphony’ thinking skill means to me?
Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century (1999) identified “The Five Cs” as the pillars in the standards-based instruction in the world languages classroom. They are Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities.
“…is the ability to put together the pieces…” ~Daniel Pink
Communication emphasizes what the learners can do with the language so that they can communicate by listening, speaking, reading and writing; and share ideas with each other.
Cultures provide the opportunity for learners to develops a better understanding and appreciation of the relationship between a language and the culture of the given language.
It is not until we understand the culture of the native speaker’s language, do we understand some of the underlined significance of culturally appropriate expressions or behaviors. As the language teacher, my job is not only to teach them the pronunciation, the vocabulary and the grammar only, but to also share with them the rich culture of the people for them to develop the ability to connect the origin and the outcome.
One of the most discussed differences between the eastern and western family structures is how the society views the family dynamics between adult children and the parents. In the westerners’ eye, it is considered ‘odd’ when an adult child, especially a son, still lives with the parents, let alone a married couple still live with the in-laws. While the western culture encourages independence and individualism, the Chinese culture holds a deep regard to the Confucian philosophy of filial piety which is a virtue of respecting one’s parents and ancestors. Living with the parents or in-laws is precisely one of the ways to show respect and to look after them on a daily basis.
“…to see relationships between seemingly unrelated fields…” ~Daniel Pink
Connections is about connecting the study of the world language with content of other subjects such as math, music, science, etc. There is endless opportunities for world language teachers to collaborate and team up with teachers in other discipline on joint projects which allow learners from both disciplines cross-learn some aspects of the subjects and maximize their
appreciation of the enriched curriculum. I often team up with visual arts and dance teachers to integrate performing arts and visual arts elements in my curriculum. There are also units that integrate science and social studies with the target language.
Comparisons is about encouraging learners to compare and contrast the languages, the practices and the products between the target language and the native language.
Many Chinese speakers have a hard time using ‘he/him/his’ and ‘she/her/her’ correctly when they speak English. It is because in Chinese, while ‘he’ and ‘she’ are represented by two different characters, they share the same pronunciation. It becomes a challenging effort to differentiate them in speaking English.
Many non-Chinese speakers find it bothersome when encounter such error from a Chinese speaker, and misunderstanding occurs. Once we develop the understanding of the cause, we will be more empathetic about the grammatical error, and will be more receptive to the actual content of what the speaker tries to convey.
“…to invent something new by combining elements nobody else thought to pair..” ~Daniel Pink
Communities, as the last pillar in the Standards, is about extending the learning experience from the classroom to the community, as well as being a life long learner who can continue the learning on their own after they leave the language learning program. As a teacher, it is my job to sustain that curiosity and desire to learn, and to help the learner to acquire the skills to learn on their own. It is different from the way I was taught where the teacher’s job is to ‘spoon feed’.
A well-equipped language lab used to be the ‘technology’ for a world language program in most schools not too long ago. In 21st Century classroom, the technology has evolved to interacting globally via the internet with web 2.0 tools over the cloud.
Education, particularly in Asia, is a competitive field where students constantly compete with each other for good grades and to get in top-ranked universities. The concept of collaborating was virtually unheard of. However, one of the 21st Century skills is collaboration – a very foreign concept for many native Chinese teachers, and definitely a challenge to be taken into account when creating lesson plans.
“…to produce a unified and pleasing sound.” ~Daniel Pink
Symphony thinking is about establishing relationships. It enhances language and presentation skills. To be an effective world language teacher, it is imperative that we embrace Pinks’ symphony aptitude to achieve that whole new mind, and find a whole new approach in curriculum design. Just as it is not about the bassoon player or the first violinist but with the entire orchestra (Pink, A Whole New Mind), it is not about any particular tree, but about fostering the ability to see the forest when it comes to teaching a foreign language.
Bring to you live from Chapel Hill, here is Wesley….. and the Shoe story
<enter commercial break>
<return from commercial break>
Interviewer: Vanessa (genuinely interested in the subject)
Interviewee: Wesley (a 3rd year Media Studies student)
Recording device: iphone5
Design elements attempted
If you are interest …… here is Wesley’s finished video production. Oh, the requirement for the assignment: Sounds Not Allowed!!
In a poem written at about 1000B.C., it talks about the integrity of a JunZi, i.e. a superior person who upholds all the virtues.
The story goes….
Once upon a time, an ordinary man walked through a melon field, and one of his shoes got stuck in the field. The man quickly bent down to fetch the shoe. The melon farmer saw that and thought he was trying to steal the melons.
Similarly, another ordinary man walked under a plum tree with low-hanging branches. The branches messed up his headpiece. While he was stretching his arms upward to fix his headpiece, the plum farmer came running and yelling, thinking that this man was stealing his plums.
The moral of the combined Idiom stories advise us that to be a true JunZi (i.e. a superior person), one would rather leave the shoe behind than risk to be suspected that he might be picking the melons from the ground. Likewise, one would also give up the headpiece without attempting to fix it in the second story in order to avoid the suspicion of stealing the plums on the hanging branches.
This idiom, In the Melon Field Under the Plum Tree, was recorded in the first Poetry Collection, Shi Jing, in 1000 B.C. This is the first Idiom Story that I shared with my students to remind them to never get themselves into a suspicious situation such as looking down at something under the desk during a test.
Growing up, I have loved listening to Idiom Stories that explain the etymology of an idiom. Most idioms typically convey positive messages or constructive lessons.
We love stories!
Children love stories, and grown-ups love stories….
Story-telling is a powerful tool to engage students in second language acquisition.
Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Story-Telling (TPRS) is a methodology that facilitates a natural order of acquisition by focusing on Contextualized Comprehensible Input through auditory and written means while collaboratively creating a story in an interactive manner with the teacher and the students. Students are captivated by the development of the plot first hand because they are experientially responsible for the turns and twists in the story line, with linguistic guidance from the teacher.
Ira Glass’s comments (advices) are interesting… and some are encouraging such as “failure is a big part of success”. I often encourage my students to feel safe to make lots of mistakes, because learning from the mistakes make the experience so much more meaningful.
However, his comments on Radio, such as those below, left me dumbfounded.
“One of the problems with being on public radio is that people tend to think you’re being sincere all the time.”
“Where radio is different than fiction is that even mediocre fiction needs purpose…”
I believe that in order for a story to be GREAT, it must be meaningful! And to be meaningful, it needs to have a function and/or purpose. The primary purposes are: to inform, to convince, to stimulate, to entertain. I found it difficult to accept that good stories can come from someone who is insincere about the story they are telling.
Best seller novelist James Scott Bell pointed out that most writers are not
content merely to write a good story. They want to “say something.” “that something” he said, “is usually called the meaning of a story. Meaning is the “big idea.” It is the moral message that comes through at the end. And all great stories have one.”
Filmmaker Andrew Stanton, who wrote Toy Story and Finding Nemo, says,
“The greatest story commandment is: Make me care.”
Now, THAT is what I consider sincere! And once upon a time, the meaning of a story mattered.
I must say –
THE PAST TWO WEEKs have been an amazing grace for me !!
From I once was lost ….
then . . .morning has broken, in search of enlightenment … .
I am trying to see your point..,
WAIT . . . I THINK I got it !!
I can see the Movement … or is it Graduation …?
But John Cleese said,
“While you are being creative, nothing is wrong. ”
So, I am . . .
and trying …
Slowly, but surely, …
I feel I am empowered . . . I can do it . . .
And while we explore the new excitement together, go for a ride on the magic carpet, we will sure find – awaiting for us is . . .
And Cris, we TRUST you!
Creativity is not a talent; it’s a way of operating. ~ Cleese
I have been told that I am very creative, resourceful and spontaneous.
I have only skimmed though the Csikszentmihalyi’s transformative theory of Flow and John Cleese on Creativity before I started the Daily Create activities. It’s not until after the 7th DC, I sat down again and watched these two video clips in greater detail.
After I finished watching them, I was able to reflect on the 7 DC’s that I completed. I was kind of glad that I did not watch the clips in detail in advance, otherwise, I would not have had the same realization that I had then. I would have been too purposefully trying and looking for all the fine points the two speakers made – it would have ruined the spontaneity in my creation.
You see, I am a ‘serious’ person when it comes to work and assignments. Somehow I have a clear distinction between work time vs. play time. Doing work with a playful mind is a big stride out of my comfort zone. This old baggage is mostly because of the choice of words. Growing up, I was taught that ‘play’ are what you do to relax and is never productive, whereas ‘work’ is productive. )
#1 tdc 359
Decision… Decision… (photographed by Joanne)
… start generating random connections, and allow your intuition to tell you if one might lead to something interesting. ~ Cleese
I took a few minutes to ponder the daily choices I have to make… Walking around in the kitchen trying to find inspiration, checking out the items in the refrigerator, moving from the kitchen into the garage… and saw a few of my crocs lying on the floor. I have over 10 pairs of crocs! And every morning I will decide which pair to wear. On some days, I may have a green on my right foot, and a yellow on my left foot. Running late … and do not have enough time to ponder.
#2 tdc 363
My most valued tools..! (photographed by Joanne)
… step back and contemplate the wider view. – Cleese
It did not take me long to have an idea about this prompt …. I AM a nerd and, in some ways, like to do certain things in an old fashioned way! I do not own a microwave oven. I use the regular pots-and-pans for reheating leftovers… just like my grandma. The first idea I had was actually my round-bottomed wok. It was when I started writing the idea down on a piece of scrap paper, I noticed the pencil and paper that I was using. YES! I still like to write myself a note with them. In fact, I worry about some of my students’ inability to write without using a keyboard.
So I might add… personal experience contributes greatly to being creative.
#3 tdc 364
Paired opposites… (photographed by Joanne)
it’s also easier to do little things we know we can do, than to start on big things that we’re not so sure about. ~ Cleese
“What happens if I do this? What would happen if we did that? What if…?” ~ Cleese
The ultimate opposite that came to my mind is black and white.
I have a black and white Border Collie.
I contemplated switching the two colors around, but quickly realized that I probably need Photo Shop to do that. After trying 30 minutes with the limited editing tools I have, I came to decide that I would switch out the background on the image.
#4 tdc 366
Happy Birthday, DC! …..(photographed by Joanne)
Intermediate Impossibles – try loosening up your assumptions by playing with deliberately crazy connections. ~ Cleese
Humor is an essential part of spontaneity, an essential part of playfulness, an essential part of the creativity… ~ Cleese
While pondering what I should portray, I decided that it would not be a regular celebratory item for birthdays or anniversaries. I wanted to highlight the objective of DC, and encourage the audience to participate in the creative process.
#5 tdc 367
Creativity is not possible in the closed mode. ~ Cleese
This DC prompt caused me the longest pondering time! I am a DOG person, not a cat person (although I do like Garfield and Hello Kitty)!
To help me loosen up, I started going through the checklist of the 5 conditions: Space, Time, Time, Confidence, Humor. I stumbled right there on #4:confidence and #5: humor ! I am not good in writing poems. In spite of maximum pondering time, this one did not turn out as I had hoped for.
#6 tdc 368
When you’re playing, nothing is wrong. ~ Cleese
This is actually my first DC, as I started the assignments in the evening of Jan 10.
When I first read the description, my Closed Mode kicked in! I started to get a little tensed. My first thought was: I don’t have a real camera, nor a lens that can help me to blur the background. I went straight to the posted tutorial hoping to get some ideas. I then googled the topic ‘panning’ on iphone. I found a couple of articles about using the ‘panorama’ option to ‘pan’. I thought about standing on the street corner to photo the passing cars, but then scratch the idea because it was already too dark outside.
The rolling apple example gave me the idea of a rolling orange. Using the panorama feature on my iphone, I must have taken 50 different shots with different moving rates… only to find out later that panning is not ‘panorama’. But the bright side? I have learned how to use the panorama feature while taking a picture. Here I come, Great Wall, and Grand Canyon!
#7 tdc 371
Excuse …(written by Joanne)
Humor is a natural concomitant in the open mode, but it’s a luxury in the closed. ~ Cleese
Give your mind as long as possible to come up with something original. ~ Cleese
If writing is one of my worst skills, then humor is the runner up! This is an area that I could work on.
#8 tdc 372
My favorite place to work…(photographed by Joanne)
You must make a quiet space for yourself where you will be undisturbed. ~ Cleese
This is my favorite (& normal….) work space where I can spread thing out and be messy. But I know where things are…. The other quiet ‘space’ is when I lie down in bed at night, moments before falling asleeep … my mind will travel through n dimensions and sometime generates the most creative and productive ideas.
#9 tdc 374
Food, Glorious Food ….! (photographed by Joanne)
these new connections or juxtapositions are significant only if they generate new meaning. ~ Cleese
I like to cook. I like taking pictures of the food I cook or eat.
Having a Flickr account now gives me an idea to compile a ‘menu’. Whenever I offer to cook for someone, they can just go to this ‘menu’ and ‘order’ what they like to have.
#10 tdc 375
Nothing will stop you being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake. ~ Cleese
….while you’re being creative, nothing is wrong. There’s no such thing as a mistake, and any drivel may lead to the break-through. ~ Cleese
I can’t draw!
Granted, in my class, I often doodle stick figures to make a point. And my students will laugh about them.. but the laugh also helps them recall the content. So is it the ‘Open Mode’ on their part such that the affective filter is lower and they are more relaxed to seize the learning moment?
In John Cleese’s speech, he described that Creativity occurs when one plays for one’s enjoyment. Though I don’t disagree, I would submit that if we enjoy our work so much that ‘working’ is just as much fun as ‘playing’, not only we would be highly creative, but we would also be in flow as suggested by Csikszentmihalyi’s seven indicators in his Flow theory.
Edward de bono, a pioneer in lateral thinking, described the PO tools of Intermediate Impossible, Random Juxtaposition, and Change without Rejection, which led to his later work of using the Six Thinking Hats method in communicating and establishing productive work teams.
You can act without certainty – your action might not be right in the absolute sense, but you are ready to “change it as soon as circumstances demand”. ~ De Bono