14. Crabs and Angels

Crabs scraping the sand
Are angels in disguise
-Clarice Arbuthnot

The ingredients for this adventure were really nothing more than a blank journal, an old book, a piece of blotter paper, and a cow puppet. Simple objects, mostly, that needed only a pinch of magic to transform into something special.

I’m sticking to the story that it was the addition of imagination that elevated our enterprise from crabs to angels.

And why?

Screen Shot 2019-04-23 at 2.44.13 PMBecause the world needs magic, and wonder, and the possibility of the unexpected. Because coming to school and knowing that there might be buried treasure in the ground makes coming to school a little better. It’s that dash of salt, that splash of picante, that changes the stew. Ours is already a school where the unexpected is to be expected, and where a pirate adventure might seem a little more plausible than at a more conventional place.

But it doesn’t take something so big or so complicated to make a creative difference, and it isn’t only at quirky art schools where adventures can take place. I see a similar magic in classrooms every week: the English teacher who gives students freedom to share their love and understanding of a book through art, or music, or film; the science teacher who inspires students to learn more about biology by adopting rats, and then inspires the design class to research rodent behavior and then make “rat parks” that those rats can explore; and the math teacher who lets students apply what they’re learning to guitar frets and music theory.

The creativity (and whimsy) of our Arbuthnot adventure is similar to those sphero lessons in history, the most engaging skits in health, and the relevant online sleuthing of a technology lesson. It may pale in comparison to students mounting their own plays, composing their own music, or developing their own immersive art, but it shares a desire to elevate life through creativity. To bring light to the dark attic of school, making it a starting point for exploration, not a place that collects dusty facts.

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In each of these cases it’s the earnest effort to connect with students that separates the mundane from the magical. Teachers who bring innovative, student focused approaches to their work aren’t just some foolish principal crawling around in the attic, and they don’t need to be. They are examples of the profound power that comes from the care that we bring to our interactions, the hope that we nurture in each other, the creativity we hope to inspire. These very human ambitions, to make a difference, to inspire, to delight, these have the power to transform the places we work and learn.

IMG_7687Bringing a sense of fun to our work, celebrating imagination, and working together creatively does more than transform the moment; at its best, valuing these things can transform our school culture.

There are lots of little and big choices we can make every day, in class, at lunch, in our own lives, to provide those around us with unexpected moments of joy, and whether it’s an impromptu concert in the foyer, a group of students dancing outside the office, or a student painting a mural in the hallway, the profound power of creativity makes our school a better place.

IMG_1292The two weeks during which we met Clarice Arbuthnot, Mary, Clement, and the rest were filled with the laughter of kids planning, kids discovering, kids searching, and kids finding. For a fortnight there was a little something unknown in the air, something to pique curiosity and encourage a smile. There was an energy in the hallways, even for those not actively joining in the hunt, and the slowly spreading smiles as more and more came into the know.

Those things make a difference.

And next time…

Of course there will be a next time. Not a weathered journal, maybe, not an old key or antiquated volume of Walter Scott, but something, some unexpected adventure that offers my school an opportunity to have fun, imagine, and nurture their creative spirits.

Next time I’ll figure out how to include more students in the great game. Next time that rush of pursuit, that puzzling over clues, that creative, collaborative, curious energy will fill even more of our community. Next time, not too long from now …maybe.

Until then, I hope the students at my school will keep their eyes open for clues to adventure, hearts filled with that pirate spirit, and minds open wide to the possibility of the unexpected.

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