Is It Autumn?

Retirement… and the Seasons of Change

As I walk my two energetic dogs near our local school and park today, I noticed that the leaves are “holding on for dear life,” most have not fallen nor started their usual color transformations. This is Western Pennsylvania in mid-October. What is happening? What forces are disrupting our cycle of the seasons… from the normal spring re-awakening of our senses, to the heat and glory of summer, to the falling temperatures and brilliance of color in the autumn, just before everything shuts down for winter? Global warming? (Well, it was a balmy 75-degrees today!) Or, nature’s way of holding on to the past… and living every moment to its fullest?

Well, one thing is for sure. You can smell that change is in the air… and in our lives as we take on the great trek to retirement  – a process, like the unpredictable and evolving seasons, which can self-empower and lead us to creative ways to self-reinvent and thrive.

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If you stop to think about it, full-time retirement embraces many of the analogies we use for our changing seasons. If those early years of education, staff orientation and induction, job training, in-service programs, conferences, etc. stand for rapid growth and the budding months of spring, perhaps summer symbolizes our career accomplishments and professional journey towards harvesting our special skills, experiences, and interests in early fall. One may accurately depict the onset of a gloomy late autumn and stormy winter weather as our release from the employment routine, the sudden free-fall of retirement, retooling and coping with the emotional turmoil of momentous life-style changes, possibly even a short hibernation (rest, reflection, and a less frenzied schedule of activities), but eventually planting the seeds of new goals, habits, perspectives, and expectations… which leads us back to spring – the season of renewed hopes, revitalized rebirths, and new beginnings.

“Retirement is the last opportunity for individuals to reinvent themselves, let go of the past, and find peace and happiness within.” – Ernie J. Zelinski

Research suggests that, as wonderful as the retirement “voyage” is for some, many do not find it “clear sailing!” Dr. Robert P. Delamontagne wrote in his book Retiring Mind (Fairview Imprints, 2010), “50% of retirees will suffer some form of acute emotional distress. This is potentially a very large problem given the fact that 10,000 people are becoming eligible for Social Security every day for the next 20 years in the US alone.”

In the event your job was cut or downsized, or you were forced into “early retirement,” you may even be in the partial grips of post-traumatic stress disorder, or experiencing some of the stages of grief and loss (http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-coping-with-grief):

  • autumn-1Denial
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Acceptance

At the very least, the passage to post-employment boils down to coping with a few of these very common emotional “bumps” along the way:

  • Loss of professional identity
  • Loss of goals, daily routine, and purposeful activity
  • Loss of social network and interaction with co-workers

“The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions, and not our circumstances.” – Martha Washington

The good news? Yes, you can survive “Crossing the Rubicon” into retirement… and flourish while “living the dream” in your supposed “golden years.” Advice from gerontologists, psychologists, and other “experts” on aging include the following:
  • Prior to retiring, prepare for “life after work.” Cultivate interests outside the job, lead a healthier life-style, revitalize family relationships, and nurture friendships.
  • Stay engaged! Understand many “high achievers” never fully retire.
  • Take a break and self-reflect on trying new and fulfilling quests of work/life balance.
  • Find purposeful activities to do during your retirement.
  • Focusing on your talents and abilities, and set some new goals regarding how you want to spend your free time.
  • Because your brain’s reward center likes variety, give yourself an assortment of new or unique experiences.
  • Treat your first year of retirement as if you are interning.
  • Reprogram yourself to be less addicted to achievement (or linking your self-identity or self-worth to a job).
  • Limit your television viewing time (less than two hours a day!)
  • Plan some regular physical activity.
  • Revisit your creative roots and enjoy personal moments of “making music” – singing, dancing, playing instruments, composing, doing drama, writing, painting, sewing, woodworking, etc. – in short, CREATING SELF-EXPRESSION!

“If you were planning to spend the rest of your life in another country, you would want to learn as much about it as possible. You would read books about the climate, people, history, and architecture. You would talk to people who had lived there. You might even learn a bit of its language. Old age is like another country. You’ll enjoy it more if you have prepared yourself before you go.” – F. Skinner and Margaret Vaughn in TIPS Retirement for Music Educators, MENC 1989

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If you ask the average retired music teacher, “Let’s get together for lunch. When are you free?” you’ll probably witness the retiree whipping out his smartphone to check his calendar app. Retirement does mean freedom, but it often also induces a very busy schedule of new commitments, perhaps even related “encore career pursuits” involving music and education such as student teacher supervision, private tutoring, coaching sectionals or small ensembles, assisting local music industry in organizing music tours/trips or delivering rental or repaired instruments, babysitting grand children or others, care-taking for an elderly loved one, etc.

“There is no pleasure in having nothing to do; the fun is having lots to do and not doing it.” – John W. Raper

A lot of our retired members enjoy part-time positions in guest conducting, teaching or presenting at the college level, providing private lessons, serving in state MEAs or the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), or other consultant services like the special interest categories on the PMEA State Retired Resource Registry Index. Many of these jobs can be started before retirement, just expanded to fit your new-found flexibility of fewer conflicts or time constraints.

The best advice I can give to newbie retirees is to learn from your peers and the successes of others who have come before you. Read everything you can get your hands on from these online “gurus” of retirement:

Check out other articles at this blog (click on “Retirement Resources” at the right), and peruse my two blog-posts at Edutopia:

Finally, if you are a NAfME member and want to see a little of Atlantic City next spring, come to my session, “Living the Dream – Survival and Celebration of Retirement” at the 55th Biennial Eastern Division Conference April 5-8, 2017 (I believe I am presenting on Thursday.) Join us, retirees! It will be FUN!

PKF

© 2016 Paul K. Fox

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Lessons in Creativity III

More Resources on Creativity and Online Learning

painter-1522795.jpgHere is your next installment (part three) on a collaborative exploration of “teaching more creatively and teaching creativity.”

Touching briefly on the research, thoughts, and works of my heroes and gurus in this field (like Sir Ken Robinson, Dr. Curtis Bonk, and Daniel Pink), check out the other “creativity in education” articles at this site. Please click on one or more of the following links:

Thanks to the generosity and inspiration of Indiana University Professor of Education Dr. Curtis Bonk, today we have a new book list and additional “free” materials with a focus on improving online learning.

More for Your Library on Creativity

Have you read any of these? (Thanks to Amazon.com, who would love to sell you these, a short description is included… mostly copied from a part of their web marketing.)

imagination-1199071Catmull, Ed (2014). Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming Unseen Forces in Way of Inspiration. Random H. From Ed Catmull, co-founder (with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter) of Pixar Animation Studios, the Academy Award–winning studio behind Inside Out and Toy Story, comes an incisive book about creativity in business and leadership.

Shenk, J. W. (2014). Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs. HMH. Weaving the lives of scores of creative duos—from John Lennon and Paul McCartney to Marie and Pierre Curie to Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak—Joshua Wolf Shenk identifies the core qualities of that dizzying experience we call “chemistry.” Revealing the six essential stages through which creative intimacy unfolds, Shenk draws on new scientific research and builds an argument for the social foundations of creativity—and the pair as its primary embodiment.

McArdle, Megan (2014). The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well is the Key to Success. Viking. Most new products fail. So do most small businesses. And most of us, if we are honest, have experienced a major setback in our personal or professional lives. So what determines who will bounce back and follow up with a home run? If you want to succeed in business and in life, Megan McArdle argues in this hugely thought-provoking audiobook, you have to learn how to harness the power of failure.

Brown-Martin, Graham (2014). Learning Re-imagined. Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation. Learning Reimagined takes its readers on a journey in search of innovation in the way we learn and teach. Filled with case studies and interviews, the book invites the reader to join the author as he travels the world to investigate the challenges that today’s educators face.

Wagner, T. (2012). Creating Innovators: Making of Young People Who Change World. Scribner. From a prominent educator, author, and founder of Harvard’s Change Leadership Group comes a provocative look at why innovation is today’s most essential real-world skill and what young people need from parents, teachers, and employers to become the innovators of America’s future.

Martinez & Stager (2013). Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, & Engineering in the Classroom. There’s a technological and creative revolution underway. Amazing new tools, materials and skills turn us all into makers. Using technology to make, repair or customize the things we need brings engineering, design and computer science to the masses. Fortunately for educators, this maker movement overlaps with the natural inclinations of children and the power of learning by doing. The active learner is at the center of the learning process, amplifying the best traditions of progressive education. This book helps educators bring the exciting opportunities of the maker movement to every classroom.

musician-1436958Robinson, Sir Ken (2013). Finding Your Element: How to Discover Your Talents and Passions.   The Element gives readers an inspirational and practical guide to self-improvement, happiness, creativity, and personal transformation, introducing the concept of self-fulfillment through the convergence of natural talents and personal passions. Among the questions that the book dives into include:

  • How do I find out what my talents and passions are?
  • What if I love something I’m not good at?
  • What if I’m good at something I don’t love?
  • What if I can’t make a living from my Element?
  • How do I do help my children find their Element?

The E-Learning Revolution

Before I retired in 2013, I noticed a growing trend of assigning web-based or online assisted classes to music teachers, especially for the Fine and Performing Arts subjects of music and art appreciation, music history, music theory, and composition. For example, two of the industry leaders in the field of interactive music learning software are MusicFirst, the Digital Education Division of the Music Sales Group (https://www.musicfirst.com/) and SmartMusic (MakeMusic, Inc.) at https://www.smartmusic.com/. General music and instrumental teachers are now taking advantage of innovative and fresh new enrichment tools offered by the web.

On his travelinEdMan website, Dr. Curtis Bonk gave an abstract of the talk he made in Seoul, Korea on September 21, 2016 (see http://travelinedman.blogspot.com/), providing an excellent history and perspective of the origin and “revolution” of online learning:

The Fourth Industrial Revolution Meets the Fourth E-Learning Revolution
Over the past few centuries, humankind has entered and exited a series of industrial ages from the age of steam and water power to the immense benefits of electricity and efficient assembly line workers to the tremendous life enhancements from computers and pervasive automation. Now we are on the cusp of the fourth industrial age related to cyber physical systems with extensive physical, biological, digital, and educational implications. It is in this age that we now are witnessing hyper-accelerating advancements in robotics, mobile super-computing, artificial intelligence, drone technology, autonomous vehicles, and much more. Similarly, in education, after just two decades of Web-based learning, we have entered the fourth phase or wave of e-learning. Interesting, each of the four waves of e-learning have come exactly seven years apart. First was the establishment of Web browsers and learning portals, brought about by Web search companies like Netscape which was founded on April 4, 1994. Seven years to the day later, MIT announced the OpenCourseWare (OCW) movement on April 4, 2001 and the age of open education was spawned. Another seven year span resulted in the first massive open online courses (MOOCs) in 2008. Now we enter the fourth phase of e-learning involving the personalization of e-learning. This is the age where mentors, tutors, experts, colleagues, and instructors can appear instantaneously on a mobile device. As with the fourth wave of the industrial revolution, there is immense change around the world today related to new forms of learning typically involving technology in the fourth phase of e-learning. In fact, there are three mega-trends related to learning technology today: (1) technologies for engagement; (2) technologies for pervasive access; and (3) technologies for the personalization and customization of learning. To better understand these new forms of learning delivery, Professor Bonk will discuss these three megatrends as well as his recent research on the personalization of e-learning. Along the way, insights will be offered into where the fourth industrial revolution bumps into and fuels the fourth e-learning revolution.
– Dr. Curtis Bonk

TEC-VARIETY

For those of you who design or teach web courses, download a copy of Adding Some TEC-VARIETY: 100+ Activities for Motivating and Retaining Learners Online, by Curtis Bonk and Elaine Khoo.

dancers-in-white-1440514-1The authors have made an online version of this work available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License. For details, go to
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us/. The e-book PDF can be accessed through the book homepage at http://tec-variety.com.

Bonk and Khoo introduce a new acronym called the TEC-VARIETY, with the goal to assist those new to online learning or seeking additional support, and to present many stories, examples, and ideas to enhance online instruction. “The resource synthesizes the varied ways for enhancing Web pedagogy into a few principles or ideas that, when combined, can powerfully boost the chances for online learning success.” However, instead of targeting four aspects of learning—reading, reflecting, displaying, and doing—this framework addresses different aspects of learner motivation:
  1. Tone/Climate: Psychological Safety, Comfort, Sense of Belonging
  2. Encouragement: Feedback, Responsiveness, Praise, Supports
  3. Curiosity: Surprise, Intrigue, Unknowns
  4. Variety: Novelty, Fun, Fantasy
  5. Autonomy: Choice, Control, Flexibility, Opportunities
  6. Relevance: Meaningful, Authentic, Interesting
  7. Interactivity: Collaborative, Team-Based, Community
  8. Engagement: Effort, Involvement, Investment
  9. Tension: Challenge, Dissonance, Controversy
  10. Yielding Products: Goal Driven, Purposeful Vision, Ownership

Cognitive Flexibility

Released on July 22, 2016 by Edutopia.org., I came upon this blog-post by Dr. Judy Willis: “Building Students Cognitive Flexibility” (http://www.edutopia.org/blog/building-students-cognitive-flexibility-judy-willis).

Is this article promoting 21st Century learning skills… something involving creativity or critical thinking? Yes! Absolutely! Bring them on!

Her opening premise:

In today’s world, the skillsets of cognitive flexibility are more critical and valuable than ever before. These skillsets include:

  • Open-minded evaluation of different opinions, perspectives, and points of view
  • Willingness to risk mistakes
  • Consideration of multiple ways to solve problems
  • Engagement in learning, discovery, and problem solving with innovative creativity.

throwing-pots-1540316While she suggests new ways to “activate your students” developing neural networks of skill-sets for “cognitive flexibility,” she defines several new opposing concepts: “inattentional blindness” vs. open-minded vision, and divergent thinking vs. the factory model of education. She provides excellent examples of lesson activities as she sums up her thoughts on learning transfer: “When you provide learners with opportunities to transfer their learning to novel applications, you’re extending their cross-brain connections and creative potentials.”

I liked her concluding quote: “H.G. Wells predicted that our future would be a race between education and catastrophe.”

Revisiting “BobWeb – The Best of Bonk”

To close up this edition of sharing creativity resources for educators, we return to Curtis Bonk and my all-time favorite website (about which you have previously heard me rave!): http://www.indiana.edu/~bobweb/r546/index.html.

If you have not visited here before, go directly to one of his four modules:

  1. Motivational Strategies
  2. Creativity
  3. Critical Thinking
  4. Cooperative Learning

For your own edification, here are some things you can explore while enjoying the “wonderful world of BobWeb!”

  1. Select the “lecture presentation” menu link and view his week #3 Creative Thinking Techniques “Example of Metaphorical Thinking: Life on a Train.”
  2. Download and peruse his PowerPoint slides for “Week 2: Alternative Instructional Strategies – Active Learning, Motivation, and Creative Thinking Week 2 Lecture Presentation.” There is much to consume here. For example, one slide (#33) describes these principles of active learning (but watch out, slide #38 and 39 offers a teacher self-assessment on these best practices! How well did you do?):
    • Authentic/Raw Data
    • Student Autonomy/Inquiry
    • Relevant/Meaningful/Interests
    • Link to Prior Knowledge
    • Choice and Challenge
    • Teacher as Facilitator and Co-Learner
    • Social Interaction and Dialogue
    • Problem-Based & Student Gen Learning
    • Multiple Viewpoints/Perspectives
    • Collab, Negotiation, & Reflection
  3. Click on the menu link “Task Examples,” and download/read “Final Project: Creativity Unit Final Creativity Unit–Elementary students.”
  4. On the same web page, go to “Option A: Curriculum Brainstorm EXAMPLE 4 Reflection and Personal Exploration Activity.

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As a reminder to the fact that we ourselves live simultaneous both as teachers and life-long students, creativity is all about being willing to take risks. Check out these resources that will “spice up” your daily lessons, and focus on student inquisitiveness, ingenuity, inventiveness, flexibility of thought, and inquiry-based learning! It is worth repeating here: Bloom’s Taxonomy and Depth of Knowledge charts place creating at the top level of higher-order thinking. In “Creativity on the Brink” (2013), Alane Starko connected creativity to deep understanding: “If we want students to master the content, they must do something with it beyond simple repetition. They must use it in meaningful ways and make it their own.” Go ahead and use the above online tools as aids to classroom discovery and self-learning, but strive to truly engage the students in the subject matter, make it fun and intriguing, and build student autonomy, motivation, teamwork, and “purposeful vision” for further study.

What are your thoughts?

PKF

© 2016 Paul K. Fox