Kate Moore (Citizens of the World Charter Schools – Kansas City. MO) used her Fund for Teachers grant to explore at a Creativity Workshop in Reykjavik, Iceland, the concept of creativity. Her goal in attending was to support diverse thinkers and learners and implement strategies to help students, staff and the community hone creativity despite fear and discomfort. Along the way, she faced her own fear and discomfort, as well.
Iceland totally amazed me. I attended the Creativity Workshop in Reykjavik and had the opportunity to work with some of the greatest minds in education. We discussed obstacles and hurdles that keep us from stretching our students’ comfort zones in the classroom and how to pull beauty from chaos – which is a pretty good description of most classrooms now and then – chaos.
Like a lot of teachers, I have a side-hustle that keeps me busy after school. I have a small photography business that grew from taking family portraits of my low-income students who otherwise wouldn’t have such memories captured. It just grew from there. Part of my own personal journey with this fellowship was to challenge my own notions of perfection and creativity in photography. It is the medium in which I feel I am the strongest, but also that which I am the most critical of myself. I had a tougher time with this than I thought. Iceland is full of ridiculously picture-esque vistas, and my inner critic was screaming much of the time: “Kate, you are not giving this justice. Way too over exposed. Crappy composition. You didn’t bring a filter for long exposures at the waterfalls, are you kidding?”
I gave myself a pre-test of sorts when I arrived and again at the conclusion of my trip after attending the Creativity Conference. The biggest change I saw: I was noticing my critic and allowing that quiet voice to fade out to another ear. As an art teacher, I do not expect or want perfection from my students. A fantastic book called “Beautiful Oops” helps prove this point in my classroom: mistakes can create something amazing, something new, something we never knew was possible.
I realized I have to practice this same philosophy in my own artwork, despite carrying the “I’m an art teacher, therefore my artwork should be pristine” mindset. I am still working on this, as any habit takes time, but taking what I learned from the workshop to apply to my OWN work really set the concept and its significance into stone for me and jazzed me up for the new school year. And let’s be honest, that is tough for everyone after two months of eating slow-cooked omelettes, going to the pool and watching Ellen 🙂
Check out Kate’s photography here.
I also learned a lot of small things by simply talking to locals and having the awesome opportunity to visit a family’s home and dine with them and their children for a night. Here are a few big categories that resonated with me and make me want to return to this amazing country:
Iceland & Animals:
- Bugs: Almost none. No mosquitoes. No ticks when hiking. No screens on windows. It’s
- Horses: Everywhere. And their hair is always photogenic and luscious in the crazy
Iceland winds. They are used for farming, hobby, transportation and touring.
- Sheep: This is a big industry here, both for wool and for meat. Farmers let them roam
free all summer – truly all over. You see them in little families climbing
mountains, drinking from glacier streams and hanging out by waterfalls. In the Fall, at least one farmer from each farm is required to help wrangle up all of the sheep to return them to their homes for the winter months. They are tagged, so after they are all herded, they are then sorted by farm. Horses are used most often, but some farmers now use drones so they can have more of an idea of where to put their herding efforts.
- Puffins: Puffins are both beautiful and edible here. However, the country monitors these populations really closely with strict regulations. If there is ever a dip, hunting puffins becomes illegal nationwide until they return to a healthy population. Puffin is usually described as a gamey taste.
Miscellaneous Info I Learned and LOVED:
- Mr. and Mrs. are just not used here. People refer to you by your first name if you are a friend, neighbor, teacher or even the Prime Minister.
- Speaking of, the Prime Minister’s address is well-known to the public, and it isn’t uncommon to run into him at the grocery store, walking his dog or to just visit at his home.
- When you have a baby here, mothers get 3 months guaranteed paid leave, fathers get 3 months, and the couple gets an additional 3 months to divide up to whoever needs it. We just had dinner with a local who has 7 weeks of vacation to burn in addition to his baby leave.
- There is also a dating app to check if you are related to people in Iceland! Since the country’s population is so small, if you meet someone at a party or a bar that you’re interested in, you want to double check if you are related in any way before pursing them.
I would highly recommend the Creativity Conference to any teacher who feels stagnant or that they want to reach students who strive a little too hard for perfection or to the student who feels lost in numbers and reading does not come easily. This conference can be a benefit to all types of classrooms. And Iceland, of course. Definitely go, but go to Costco ahead of time to bring snacks because a cup of soup is $25.
Kate works in urban education in Kansas City, MO, where she teaches elementary art. Prior to teaching art, she taught English as a second language, writing and social studies at a dual language school. While born and raised in Wisconsin, Kate attended Iowa State University where she received a Bachelors of the Arts in Art and Deign with a minor in Spanish and Psychology. She received her Master’s in Education from the University of Missouri St. Louis in 2015. She has 3 pet free frogs who are regulars in her classroom named Sam, Brown Sugar, and Reina.