About Lee-Ann Meredith

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Lao Tzu Lee-Ann Meredith is a second grade teacher, author, Department Chairperson and education advocate who has spent the duration of her time in public education at John B. Murphy Elementary School in inner city Chicago. Often characterized as funny, dynamic, and an independent innovator, Lee-Ann cites her idol as Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus. Fluent in a wide range in instructional strategies for the elementary level, Lee-Ann is dedicated to being an advocate for children everywhere by implementing 'cutting edge' strategies to increase student achievement. Some of the issues that she spearhead included: promoting literacy throughout the building, leading community meetings to advocate for full day kindergarten for all students and helping implement the Responsive Classroom strategies throughout the school. In addition to working closely with the curriculum, she also had the honor to supervise (and mentor into teaching positions) numerous student teachers and practicum students from various post-secondary institutions around the Chicago area such as: Erikson Institute, National Louis, DePaul. Northeaster Illinois, Roosevelt, and North Park Universities.

Is teaching a science, a system, an art, or all of these? There are many pundits who will say it is a system and anyone who follows it can teach. As a former student of mine would say, “BZZZZZZ! Wrong answer!” A whabam system is only as good as the person who applies it and that the students who receive it are ready for it.

There is certainly a science to teaching. We can mess with the formulas, the percentages of input to output. The proportion of concepts and strategies taught to receive the maximum result. The problem with this concept is that it fails to take into account the human factor in teaching.

Both science and systems play a part in great teaching but there is that balancing component that even the most stalwart technicnitans recognize. My husband was an IT guy who started with punch cards in the 70s. He used to say that any numbskull could program a simple algorithm but it took an artist to expand and fine tune a system so that it worked every single day. He considered himself an IT artist.

I consider myself and other good teachers education artists. Like many artists I believe in a muse. I love when my education muse, Inspiration, strikes. She tosses me a great idea, a new way to tackle something, a new analogy that can feed my sudents a new perspective.

Exactly what type of art are we talking about? Music? It requires the skill of a conductor to let each student’s notes be heard and blended into something that reaches beyond our ears. We have to assist each child to temper their own abilities to grasp the next concept. Whether that is teaching the fast and furious to slow down, or provide the scaffolding for your strugglers to master each step

Sculpture? Why not? Some children come in with clear shapes, ready to tackle the world with their whole beings. Others are just blocks of stone. Some of those blocks are easy to chip away and turn into something solid. The granite blocks are much harder to create a form out of. I remind myself that Michelangelo’s David was carved out of flawed marble into the most breathtaking sculpture I have ever seen. I can aspire to that.

Theater? You bet your boots? A great teacher not only used drama to create interest, she uses it to build knowledge, to create wonder out of thin air, and ideally, to see her students begin to step out of the wings to begin dramatizing their own learning.

Weaving? Teachers not only warp the loom with thread, the structure, the common core. The warp alone doesn’t provide knowledge. This is something the pundits and donors have forgotten. What holds it all together is the weft. It adds the color, the pattern, the texture of education.

Education is not outsider art. It definitely requires training and structure. It is a trained artist that can be wildly creative within a structure or even know when it is safe to step outside the box. That box, out curriculum, is a tool to our art. When a box is just sitting in the middle of a table it isn’t doing much. It is when we see that box in a new way that we really expand our students thinking. Turned on its side, picked up and shaken, or even flattened give us new ways of seeing material.

It is a collaborative art. There are no “One Man” shows in education. Our products, our creations don’t even stay ours for more than a year or so. They move on to be reshaped, and expanded by the next teacher.

Teaching is not a trade. It is not a skill. It is a craft. It is an art form. It sometimes, actually often, requires going back to the drawing board. The outcome, however, is simply amazing even to us teachers. Especially to us teachers.

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