Sunday, May 27, 2012

It All Started With a Dot

If you follow me on Twitter or 'friend' me on Facebook, you will often see mention of "International Dot Day". If you are new to following, you might wonder what it is all about. You can find out much more on  the FableVision Learning website. But, really, why the focus on dots?

Peter H. Reynolds wrote a book called "The Dot". The first time I read it, I got tears in my eyes. You see, it is the story of a girl, Vashti, who has an amazing teacher. The basic premise is that the teacher does a relatively small (though fabulously thoughtful) thing that transforms Vashti into a super-creative wonder. I love that idea.

The official FableVision Learning press release says, "One teacher, Terry Shay in Iowa, believed so fully in the power of The Dot that in 2009 he “made his mark” by declaring September 15th as International Dot Day. To commemorate The Dot’s publication date, he encouraged fellow teachers to read the book and then create their own dots." That's the story...but it was only the beginning. 

The amazing thing is that it started with a Facebook message to Peter H. Reynolds and what I called a 'crazy idea'. (I have a lot of those). I thought it would be fun to create little event where kids could put down their standardized tests and just spend some time being creative. What it has developed into exceeds my wildest dreams. 

The first year was a sweet little celebration with friends around the country. I marveled at the creativity of teachers wearing dot shirts ( <3 Maryann), decorating their school with dots, and I was thrilled to that many people sent me photos commemorating the day. I held an event in my school with fourth graders and the school counselor was there to help. 

Fast forward three years, my good friend, Bill Norris, suggested we come up with some sort of form to find out who was celebrating and where they were. Again, I am a pretty good at dreaming, but I never dreamed 17,000 kids and 1000 adults on six continents would be participating...and those are only the ones who filled out the form. We were helped out a lot last year by dear friends Shannon Miller and John Schumacher, who made a weeks worth of activities and got a lot of new people on board.

Now for something I have never said to anyone. I feel like I should label this section "Dear Diary". . . at least one time per celebration, a tiny negative voice creeps into my brain and says, "really... dots... is that it? No one has ever changed the world by making a dot." Then, fortunately, that little voice is shouted down by a barrage of emails, tweets, and Facebook messages with kids proudly holding their creations. And, as I always say, if there is something better than a kid with a beaming smile, proudly holding their creation, I don't know what it is. I do believe with my whole heart and 99.9% of my brain that this day can be a launching pad for future creative classrooms. I know it has worked for mine. 

Last year, another event made a huge difference to me. The lovely and talented author, Sharon Creech, did a simple act of love and kindness that changed something in me. She sent me a dot on dot day. I am just a teacher in a tiny school in Iowa, and this amazing person who is loved by every single person who has picked up one of her books, is taking part in this special day. That special email launched the next project I am working on, Celebri-dots. In my mind I can picture kids going to that site and seeing famous people creating dots just like they did in school. Again, wildly exceeding my expectations, the creativity on that site has blown me away. Apple pie dot, raspberry juice dot, clay dot....what better example could their be for children than a wide variety of creative responses?

I could go on and on....and I have. I am grateful beyond words for Peter H. Reynolds the author of the Dot and a champion of creativity. I am grateful for friends like Shannon M. Miller and John Schumacher who have taken the dot and run with it. I am honored to have awesome celebrity friends who inspire me every day, following the model of Sharon Creech, whom I adore. 

I dream of taking this day even 170,000 students, then 170 million . .. to pick up that last continent (because 6 continents is SO last year). I dream of the day that a student will say, 'hey, remember when we celebrated dot day, that launched a journey of unimagined proportions for me' . . because it has done that for me. 

Best of all... PARTICIPATE THIS YEAR!! September 15ish.