Am I the best or just the first person to say yes?
The question from my second-year Spanish student, a junior whom I had taught last year in Spanish I, came out of left field.
"Señor, can I do a puppet show instead?"
"Instead of submitting your story on Google Drive?" I responded. "Why not? Yes."
I wasn't always this agreeable last year. I preferred order, consistency, a large degree of compliance.
I docked points for late submissions. I shaved points off perfectly fine work because it didn't necessarily fit within the framework of the assignment.
As with many first-year teachers, "sticking to the script" was key to my survival. Give the students explicit instructions and expect them to be followed to the letter. Anything less was an opportunity to punish them with fewer points because, after all, these students will go on to become college students and employees and be expected to follow instructions, right?
I am but one of many instructors my students will encounter on their high school journey. These instructors likely still require a certain level of compliance to follow instructions, to pay attention to details, to turn in work in a timely manner, etc. In my publishing career, knowing how to follow procedures in our tight deadline-driven industry was critical to our professional success.
Hopefully a majority of us high school teachers also encourage creativity and divergent thinking. Because as critical as procedures and deadlines were in publishing, innovative thinking and creative solutions to problems were also highly valued.
As a young editor new to the profession, I was often told "no". No, you can't do this. No, that won't work. No, it's not the way we do things.
Rather discouraging, right?
It never stopped me from raising my hand and suggesting new things. Because every once in awhile, I would hear a "maybe", which more often than not turned out to be a "yes" or at least a cursory consideration of my idea.
I want my students to feel encouraged to express themselves in whatever form they are most comfortable with. Already this year I have seen brief writing assignments turn into comic strips, slide shows, and interviews.
In the spring my Level II students will work in groups to create children's books in Spanish. I'm hopeful that at least a few of these stories become videos or skits. I will do what I can between now and then to encourage all manners of creative output.
As long as my students are demonstrating their learning, I'm happy. Even if they demonstrate it several days or weeks late, fine. I'll assess your Spanish skills, not your timeliness.
Last year's me would never recognize this year's me. And that's a good thing.
So my student wants to convert his story into a puppet show? No problem, bring the popcorn.