You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…
This week, we were asked to consider the relationship between creation and the importance of beauty, passion, and endurance, and what, if any, responsibility we have when teaching to instill inspiration on top of skill building. This struck me as a really thought-provoking question, because it is not something I have ever really contemplated before. But the longer I thought about it, the more I felt that we do, as teachers, have that responsibility. Furthermore, isn’t it every teacher’s dream to inspire their students? Yes, I know, we are not teachers in the traditional sense, but we still teach, so should we not still inspire?
While reading Invent to Learn, one idea really stuck out to me:
“Artists, musicians, filmmakers, authors, poets, and crafts people do not set out to produce or consume content. They work tirelessly to draw, write, paint, film, compose, play, build, knit, sew, act or direct to create personally meaningful objects, sights, sounds, or memories” (Martinez & Stager, 2013, p. 66).
I think this is a really important concept to remember. Makers aren’t necessarily making to be noticed or to receive praise, they are making because they want to and because something has motivated them to create. As teachers, we should encourage this type of making. As teachers, we want to provide the starting point, and let the student go where they will. We want to inspire someone to start, and then see where it takes them. We do not need to give a complete, step-by-step set of instructions: give the students a little, and they will create a lot.
Of course, there will always be exceptions to this. I know there will always be someone who cannot fathom what comes next when given the tiniest of nudges. But the hope is that you can provide enough guidance or information to stimulate them into finding their own way, finding their angle, and learning the skill you are teaching without forcing one particular method on them. Yes, as teachers, there has to be a focus to our projects. There are things that need to be taught, but there are always many ways to do it. It is our job to find the most engaging, or the most interest-inducing way to go about it. Finding projects that will allow students to explore their interests while still capturing the essence of the lesson is the fastest way to both inspire and immerse students in the learning environment. We want them to go forth and discover, and what better way to discover than through something they are passionate about? “When a project burns inside of them, students often exceed our expectations” (Martinez & Stager, 2013, p. 60). It is our responsibility to fan the flames.
For me, the most important example of why we teach to inspire as well as build skills comes from the reading. At the end of chapter four, there is a section entitled “Making Memories.” It’s just a few paragraphs, but I think it truly captures what I am trying to demonstrate about why we must not only help students build skills, but also inspire them. The author discusses that moment when you’ve just rolled out of bed and have to run to the store for milk before you can even start your day, and you run into a former student who wants to reminisce, starting with “remember that time we…” (Martinez & Stager, 2013, p. 67). This shows the influence we can have as teachers in students’ lives. Often, it is teachers (or librarians) who teach a student something that sticks with them, and inspires them later in life. While we may not remember most of what we learned in school, there is usually some lesson or idea that has endured. We read stories all the time where people are thanking their sixth grade teacher, or their elementary school librarian, for doing or saying something that both taught them a lesson and formed the basis for inspiration down the line. “Great teachers know that their highest calling is to make memories” (Martinez & Stager, 2013, p. 67). By choosing projects and lessons that are memorable, we are laying the groundwork to leave students feeling inspired and excited to learn in the future.
Martinez, S.L. & Stager, G. (2013). Invent to learn: Making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom. Torrance, CA: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.