May 21

Alli Keil Distinguished Service Award Acceptance Speech

Posted by Linda Reing in The Alumni Blog on May 21, 2013

By Allison Keil '04

Distinguished Service Award winner Allison Keil and BSCAA President Jesse Pugh.

Firstly let me start by saying it is an absolute honor to be here tonight and to be introduced by Frank, a longtime mentor to me is an additional honor.

Tonight feels like a night to be reflective to think about what I have been able to accomplish with the support of Bank Street. But tonight is also a night to share with you some of my hopes and some of my deep worries.

I hope that each of you in this audience can think of a teacher who is partly responsible for getting you to where you are today. I can almost guarantee you that when you think of that teacher you think of how that teacher inspired you to think differently about yourself or abut the world. I bet you can point to experiences you had with that teacher where you were engaged in a conversation or a study that allowed you to think deeply, outside of the box, creatively. Maybe like me it was the books that this teacher suggested I read and the conversations she held in that classroom where we fought passionately for our interpretations of that literature. Again, if you are like me I can almost guarantee you that the experiences that come to mind when you picture that teacher, whoever that teacher was to you, are not memories of that teacher preparing you for a State assessment in 3rd Grade or a multiple choice test in high school. And yes, here lies my worry.

We as a country are losing track of what matters in our classrooms in what arms a child for success. What is most disturbing is we have more answers than we are listening to. We know that creativity, defined as “the production of something original and useful” is essential for success. Reading a recent Newsweek article I found an IBM poll where 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the No. 1 “leadership competency” of the future. Yet when we hold schools “accountable” we base those accountability measures solely on high stakes standardized tests that have nothing to do with creativity or creative problem solving and therefore we completely discourage schools and teachers from considering one of the most important elements of success and how to teach to that.

Please do not misunderstand I am very pro accountability and high standards for students and for schools, however how we hold students and schools accountable matters. We must be measuring across meaningful domains, we must be looking for and ultimately testing what leads to success.

To go one step further we know from research what experiences and modes of instruction lead to creativity and we know that creative thinking can be taught and fostered. We know that creative thinking requires generating unique ideas and then combining those ideas for the best result. We as educators know how to give children these experiences, we know this from places like Bank Street. But we as educators need for accountability systems to catch up to us and to reward and value teachers and schools who give children this type of educational experience, the kind of experiences that we can all point to when we think of that one classroom, or that one teacher or if we are really lucky that one school that gave us this type of experience, the one that helped us become who we are today.

Around the world countries are turning their educational attention to how to teach creativity in school. In this same Newsweek article it highlighted how the The European Union designated 2009 as the European Year of Creativity and Innovation, holding conferences on the neuroscience of creativity and instituting problem-based learning programs—curricula driven by real-world inquiry—for both children and adults. And this article went on to discuss how In China there has been widespread education reform to extinguish the drill-and-kill teaching style and Instead to adopt a problem-based learning approach. Why, you maybe asking is our country going in the other direction – and yes this is the question I am constantly asking myself.

And just to bring this out of the classroom and into the real world, the real world problems we are leaving with our children are vast and will no matter if we prepare them or not require creative thinking and problem solving, how are we going to solve our energy crisis? What can be done to repair the damage we have done to our natural environment? Where can we even begin to address gun violence? These questions do not have simple answers, and we are not given multiple choices to solve these problems – we must teach our children to face multi-faceted problems, to think creatively and to work together. And yes, this work has to be done in classrooms, in schools and across our country.

So, supporters of Bank Street we have our work cut out for us. We as a group have to think creatively to insure that those who have a voice in public school reform and accountability measures for public schools consider the things that we know are important and essential for the success of our children and for our world. Let’s help them catch up.

tagged allison keil, distinguished service award
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