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.
This week, as I was listening to Adam Savage’s Maker Faire talk, I found a lot of what he was saying really resonated with me. Most poignantly, at the end when he was concluding his talk, he said:
“It doesn’t matter what you make and it doesn’t matter why. The importance is that you’re making something.”
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the passion and the feeling behind his whole talk, and especially this sentiment, and I immediately knew this was what I wanted to address this week. Creating, while it is about the creation, is also about the experience, and the joy and happiness a creator gets from making something. And no two experiences will ever be the same. We all go about making things in different ways, whether we are re-creating something from pop culture or pulling a thought from our minds and making it real. For example, when Adam was talking about people coming together on the Replica Prop Forum to discuss their various re-creations of the Iron Man costume, I realized that while all of these people are looking for the same end product, the way they all get there will be different. Just because someone is making something from pop culture, it does not mean they are less creative or original: it means they’ve seen something they are so interested in, so passionate about, that they are willing to do whatever it takes to make it theirs. So what if it isn’t their original work? The fact is, that person is using the tools available to them, the skills they have, or possibly learning new skills, all in order to fabricate something from scratch that they can be proud of and call their own. It’s a different type of creativity, but it is creativity nonetheless.
So while I do think that the experience varies when makers are creating something out of their imagination as opposed to something from pop culture, I think the experience honestly just varies whenever someone creates something. No two people are alike, and no two creations will be alike, which means no two experiences will be the same. Whatever you choose to make, you are starting with a picture in your head, or on paper, and you must plot out how to best accomplish the end product. And therein lies the experience of planning and creating; it’s the same process whether it’s your own original work or something you want to re-create so you can have something special that you may have seen before, but you have made all on your own. And no matter what you make, hopefully it makes you happy and you can just be proud that you made it.