Saturday, September 18, 2021

When Things Get Tough, Blossom through a Flexible, Creative Mindset


In an overly difficult world we now live in, we need to move forward with empathy and understanding for each other, blooming with a flexible mindset. Tough times, like a pandemic, can overwhelm, even painfully gripping, the most devoted, talented parent/educator with student instructional demands that should reveal positive improvement outcomes.

Having taught many puppetry workshops in the Kansas City area, it became my open door to the creativity process. You might consider applying creative puppetry to your classes as a learning tool. There are many online examples and options.

Accessing your own talents is your open doorway to connecting with learners positively, happily, and reach self-actualization in the process. But, you might ask – how can I do this? It does take time and patience, but I can relate my unusual story, as an example of making worthy progress in bettering lives.

Creating and Realizing Your Inner Mindset

A mindset takes inner resolve of taking action through mental planning. Many teachers and parents feel they have enough to do with student/classroom management without trying to figure out new, creative activities, or wade through the best online applications for every subject. It simply is not their bag when their hands are full enough. There can be simply too many hourly demands. Now, you can decide to expand your mind to energize your own inner resolution that will give you endless hope joy, and peace of mind.

Jump Into Action Tips

1. Spring your own ideas from inspiring, moving, reading/media material.

2. Follow your own inner intuition, rather than including outside influences, to create your personalized mindset. Agreeing with others’ comments, opinions, or criticisms will affect your own creative process. Competing derails your own originality.

3. Use trial and error. Experiment, and then adjust as needed on following days. Have fun with different variations. Make it your own game plan.

4. Build and elevate. Subsequently, your creativity will build more and more, bit by bit, just like mine did into a crescendo, for a new, fluid, mindset.

How Did I Develop a Creative Mindset?     

As a first year teacher, I had a forward looking, enthusiastic, mindset graduating from college early, ready to teach, and create a positive, happy, day for eager learners. Taking a second grade position, with a wide variety of disabilities in my own generational background, I knew that I wanted to address each child independently with as much undivided time and attention as I could possibly muster. Subsequently, I soon had five individual reading groups at different levels for several years in the teaching profession.

For my student teaching practicums, I had understudied with an amazingly creative veteran first grade teacher who taught through poetry. Then, I also did practice teaching the following semester with a traditional, second grade veteran. I hated every minute of it, and decided then and there I would apply art and science methodologies that included music, drama, story- telling, and poetry that I was highly proficient in. The days would brighten. But, I was not certain how I would do it, as diverting from “old school” teaching methods was not the norm.

Accessing my music-speech-drama-science-literature studies background, I began designing special activities to encompass a large variety of learning levels and abilities. Nonetheless, I soon found myself with a school principal that welcomed creativity in a progressive school district. Students applied reading, spelling, language and math learning into writing poetry, songs and dramatic plays. This progressed to combining all subject matter into one dramatic musical episode for parents, teachers, and admin. Soon, I became recognized for giving end-of-semester auditorium performances.

As a family also enjoying books, poetry, music, and science, we soon created a charming puppet play with a home-made stage and hand puppets, for a summer church school event.

An enthusiastic church troupe formed, and we toured nursing homes, facilities for those with special needs, and offered public grade school musical events. Elderly, disabled, patrons often waited an hour in anticipation of our amusing “Teddy Bears’ Picnic” puppet show. 

Meeting a Wood-Carving Puppeteer Strapped in Performance History

While touring with the clever “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic”, I was asked if I had met the local puppeteer, Foy Brown, whose livelihood was a fireman who carved ventriloquist puppets in off moments. He had grown up with a father who traveled nationally to the New York stage, as an entertainer and wood carver at the turn of the 20th century.

Foy Brown lived near our high school.  Enchanted with this history, I purchased the first two puppets. Enjoying his ongoing carving process, I made another upcoming purchase, “Professor Do Little Higgins”.

Foy introduced me to another nationally recognized, vaudeville/Hollywood stage performer, Lucile Elmore, who sold Lily La Teur to me. This created the puppet ensemble necessary to create our “Voco Poco Puppets” advertising productions.

Foy’s and her enthusiasm had become contagious for my family of three children who wrote the scripts, created costumes, lighting, and set designs, as done earlier. We now had three large ventriloquist wooden puppets that sang and had silly, comeuppance story lines, accompanied by my 12-year old son playing the electric piano. Soon, we found ourselves as a big show stopper with advertising demands for the then trendy shopping malls and department stores, for every holiday imaginable.

We gathered large crowds of hundreds enjoying our unique ventriloquist puppets. Noticing that the puppets caught fixated attention, I began wondering if they might be good role models for my teaching with special needs children, as a learning disability teacher.

Lucile attended our productions and was enthralled with our family show.  I enjoyed her ventriloquism lessons with my ongoing vocal studies. When she passed away, I sat behind her attorney at her funeral. He was with a little ventriloquist wooden, Hollywood studio-made puppet, a red-haired, little boy, stage-named Butch O’Malley. Surprisingly, she had bequeathed me Butch, of her early Hollywood 1930s, stage show tours.

When the attorney presented Butch, he announced, “Lucille knew you would do something important with him, and would prevent his storage in a box lost in a museum (that did happen with many of the early puppeteer performers’ stage puppets, props). I was not only astounded, but deeply touched. 

My classroom teaching segwayed into research projects with small, homogonous, group instruction in a home studio. This created my own research and content development company, Mem-ExSpan, Inc. The cognitive skills research and practice work indicated that the lessons required filming for scalable, sustainable, expansion. The Voco Poco Puppets family team created the initial home-filmed lesson segments for test site application, decades ago. Updated filming became paramount, now a reality.

Thirteen national test sites were set up through research and low cost availability. In-depth individualized, standardized cognitive and academic assessments formed remarkably large data pools. This in-depth assessment, evaluations, and data analyses for a wide wage of ages and demographic groups explained the extraordinary, novel methodology. Participants were pleased as they obtained unusual, yet visibly apparent, assessment and outcome results in a short period of time at low cost. Thousands benefited and blossomed.

Throughout this endeavor, I remained in scholarly class work at the University of Kansas, a nearby campus.  Applied research in a variety of settings, was my noteworthy, enwrapped focus.  Testing company executives, the Educational Testing Service (ETS) in Princeton, NJ, and professors, doctoral students, from five different universities joined and worked on the pre-digital data outcomes. I wrote scientific articles that were submitted to journals, juried, published, and eventually received awards as landmark research having completed 5 longitudinal research reports.

This is my story, as to how a flexible mind set created inspirational, lasting, teaching methods, now completed. Never give up. Give it a try and see. What will your self- empowerment story be?