Thursday, January 18, 2007

Badly Laced Shoes

Okay. Notice anything unusual about those shoes? Okay they are tatty, but apart from that do you notice anything unusual? Well I guess the title of this post kind of gives the game away, but I'll explain.

A few months ago I was sat on my sofa having returned from work dog-tired, and promptly fell asleep. I still had my shoes on. I was awakened by some furtive activity at my feet and looked down to see my six year old daughter admiring her handiwork. She had undone my shoelaces and now proclaimed loudly that she had managed to lace them back up again.

Now, I felt I should be cross at her - after all you don't do shoe laces up as shown in the picture. You just don't. But wait a minute, she did! She chose to lace up my shoes that way. So just because they are not laced up the traditional way, is there anything wrong in that?

This set me thinking, we as teachers are so quick to judge the work of our students based on them producing out put that conforms to our expectations. Harry Chapin once sang 'Flowers are Red' - a song that resonates with any teacher or parent who wants pupils to be as creative as possible. It concerned a teacher who told a couple that their child was no good at art because he painted flowers all sorts of colours but 'there's no need to paint flowers any other way than the way they always have been seen' ie. red petals and green leaves.

So my daughter through her interpretive lacing of my shoes taught me a lesson about creativity and I just could not get cross at her. I was just proud - a VERY proud dad, that my wee girl had laced her first pair of shoes.

Her lacing made me focus on the outcomes of some of the work done in my Moodle by students at my school. Work that I had skirted over before and perhaps not given proper credit to now looks astonishing in the way it has innovatively made use of the available tools. I will post articles on these later.

Two personal examples that can be used to illustrate this point come to mind. Firstly there's this blog. Now in and of itself its nothing special - it's full of misspellings and poor grammar. But it was written by my son. My ten year old son. He has an interest in dinosaurs and Euan decided, off his own back that he wanted to make a web site to tell others what he knows about them. What better a mechanism for him to gain personal pride and self-esteem than by writing his Blog? All his posts are written by him, when he wants to write them. Through the fog of misspellings you can still see what he's trying to say. And I think that's amazing. You simply can't buy the feeling of pride I feel as a dad seeing his Blog.

The second example is this Blog by a former GCSE student of mine. I suggest you take a moment to read the text of a couple of her posts. This was her self-evaluation and diary covering the progress she was making on her GCSE ICT coursework. A post containing the seemingly inane comment 'Return of the music!!!!! I would like to point out that while I have been listening to music I have done THIS much work. When I wasn't I had only done this much work. Now I'm almost on my 10th page which may not sound like much but for me...' is followed by the far more valuable 'Grr, every time I change the font size all the 'spelling mistakes' reappear. They're not even mistakes the computer just doesn't recognise .bmp or whatever.' This idiosyncratic voice which the student had found for her Blog would not be acceptable in a formal GCSE coursework, but does that mean it is of no value at all? I think not.

I still have my shoes laced that way - 4 months after Shona laced them for me. In one way I'm a proud dad and when people ask me why they are laced that way I tell them the story. And hey, the lacing is functional - its fit for purpose and my shoes have never ever felt so comfy.

I WALK TALL in my uniquely laced shoes.