April 15, 2012

Doctor's orders - keep moving forward, don't wait to be inspired!

I have been asked quite a few times, "Where do you come up with this stuff?" The "stuff" consists of the ideas and lessons I have been talking about with other teachers and in this blog. Well, today I am writing this for fear that I might never write anything meaningful, worth talking about again. (Okay, I've got a flare for the dramatic, but it has been a while since my last post.) Mainly I haven't written anything because I just couldn't find that inspiration to write about. It's like when you have been in a really good work-out routine for months, maybe years, and then you take a few days off. Then those days quickly turn into weeks, and before you know it a month has passed and your running shoes have seen no action. How do you get back into that healthy routine? 

Well, that's where I am at! So, I decided to go to the doctor, Dr. Seuss that is! P.S. - Walt Disney is going to be my personal trainer. 

I have to admit that I have been pretty over-excited at times about what is happening in my classroom, and this blog has proven to be a great outlet for me. Overall the ideas have come one after another as I have reflected on my practice. The ideas for my lessons and my year-long themes have to be inspired though, and I find inspiration in many places, often through reading others' work and writing about my own. 

I like what Dr. Temple Grandin said in her 2006 book: Thinking in Pictures. She explains about how her thinking develops in her work as an equipment designer for the livestock industry, 

"Visual thinking has enabled me to build entire systems in my imagination...before I attempt any construction, I test-run the equipment in my imagination." 

What is outstanding about Dr. Grandin is that despite having Autism she has no lack of ideas and inspiration, and she completed a PhD in her field of study. She talks about putting herself inside the cattle's heads and looking out through their eyes. 

I am not designing livestock equipment and I don't care so much about cows; my study is about students and learning. Nevertheless, similar to Grandin, my inspiration comes from my interactions with the students and also by considering what the world is like from their perspective. Likewise, I also need space and time to reflect alone and run things through a few times in my mind before I actually implement them in the classroom. Sometimes this can be quite productive, but it can also be a perplexing and lonely place at times. What happens when the ideas just don't seem to come in the same ways they were before, and there is no template for what you are doing? What do you do?

I start to ask myself a lot of questions. Is is just because I am going down the same path over and over that I am getting de-sensitized or bored? Sometimes though when you try to do things in a new way and you abandon the old methods, there is no safety net or prescribed path. I don't quite have a routine that I can fall into yet. Will I ever? It's an uncomfortable place to be in, but I can't go back. 

It's maybe what Dr. Seuss meant by "The Waiting Place" in his book: Oh the Places You'll Go!.

There is hope of course, as he writes shortly after, "No, that's not for you!".

Have you ever heard of Akiane Kramarik? She is truly amazing! Akiane is known as a child prodigy for her painting and poetry. She started sketching and painting at the age of four. Here is one of her recent paintings about wonder:

Akiane credits her "gift" as inspired by God, even though she was raised in a non-religious home. What I really love is an inteview I heard her mother give. She said that Akiane has a gift yes, but she also works extremely hard. "She gets up sometimes at 4am to work in her studio. Akiane does not wait for inspiration, inspiration waits for her."

I am on this journey already of course, but there are always new paths to take and a new perspective to take along the way. Maybe I will change something about my classroom design, or re-work my weekly schedule to see if that affects the kind of change I am looking for, or ask the kids more questions about what they want to find out more about, or ask another teacher if I can observe their teaching practice to find out what I am lacking in mine, or read more books and blogs...or all of the above!!

I find more inspiration in the Disney animated movie: Meet the Robinsons. Walt Disney's famous motto "Keep moving forward" inspires a young inventor to not give up on himself and his dreams. So I'm going to do just that. I have to put one foot in front of the other and hope I don't fall flat on my face. It feels good actually to get out on the trail and get some dirt on my shoes again, especially when I have been away for so long. It seemed that way anyways, or at least there was the threat of the well running dry if I didn't. (pun intended)

I know that I can't be stuck here in this place for long. I have to move on, and that is why I write. As Dr. Seuss' book ends, "So...you're off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So...get on your way!" 
So, I am going to challenge myself again and try something new. Mountain hiking can be strenuous, but you always gain so much perspective and a feeling of accomplishment when you climb up and reach the top. I feel envigorated already, and know this will lead to something else, new and valuable...and inspirational! Thanks for reading, even if it was just for me:) 

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