Last month I shared TED Talks to provide inspiration for transformation. This month, I draw your attention to published texts that relate directly or indirectly to the Visioning work. Beyond reading the books highlighted this month, I challenge you to share them with others through conversations rooted in positive, intentional change in classrooms, at schools, and across districts.
Then, I shared Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, highlighting the need for accessibility to content and commitment by educators to see the possibilities within students as individuals.
Now, I draw your attention to Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. Published in 2010, this novel has been on the New York Times bestseller list, the Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List, in addition to being given numerous other awards.
The most apparent connection between Out of My Mind and the Visioning work lies in this premise: I.a The technologies that make this new digital world possible must be viewed as opportunities and tools that can help us in educating and socializing the young both in and outside of school. Technology provides the opportunity the character Melody needs to grow, thrive, learn, and communicate more effectively. When Melody receives the Medi-Talker, a technological device designed to give her words a voice, the trajectory of her educational experience changes for the better, forever.
“When I think about it, I realize I have never, ever said any words directly to my parents. So I push a couple of buttons, and the machine speaks the words I’ve never been able to say. ‘I love you.'”
We also know: II.e Standards should tap curiosity and imagination in the traditional academic core, aesthetic and skill areas in a way that lack of proficiency in any one area does not discourage students from recognizing and pursuing their special talents and learning in other areas. Melody uses imagery beyond the traditional sense. She can hear colors, very descriptive colors. She can also taste music. This example of interconnectedness of senses prompts educators to ask: In what ways do I allow for students to demonstrate understanding through their own special talents, interests and passions? How do we allow our students to use choice within learning experiences and assessment?
“Classical music is softly seeping from her new iPod. I hear soft purple.”
The reader is challenged later in the book when the learning environment of Mr. Dimming’s classroom is described. There is discomfort on the part of the other children when Melody uses her computer to respond to quiz questions and also when she is accompanied by Catherine, her aide. This causes us to wonder about the role of the educator in fostering a safe environment in which students are willing to take risks and engage in challenging curriculum. What do we believe are the qualities of a safe environment and how do we ensure they meet the needs of each student?
It is worth noting that the fish that appears on the cover of the book plays a role in the story. I will refrain from describing the symbolism behind Ollie the fish, but encourage you to compare Ollie’s life in his bowl to Melody’s life.
Out of My Mind is a book that I will not soon forget and will discuss with colleagues as often as they will engage in conversation.
I encourage you to read (or re-read) Out of My Mind and talk to someone about this book. Ask questions. Challenge your thinking.