The start of every school year finds me the same as every other day of the year...searching for new ways to think about and practice education.
This year finds me prodding my colleagues, entreating them to reconnect with their own passions and the passions of their students for compulsion only leads to coercion which rarely produces any kind of positive, long-term results.
Here's my plea to start the year, sent to all the members of my school e-mail list:
The other day I ran across this quotation:
"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea." -Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author and aviator (1900-1945)
I've read a lot of books on creativity and creative thinking and about how it helps students develop flexible, adaptable habits of mind--a key component for success in an ever changing world. Quotations by Antoine de Saint-Exupery fill those books.
One might argue that they ought to fill the minds of all the adults who work in our schools as well, for we are, in a sense, engaged in building a ship--the ship that will bear us into the future. If we wish to be successful in that endeavor, we ought to heed Saint-Exupery's words.
I'm not saying that students don't need work and assigned tasks. We all need those things. But they must be meaningful. They must be things that, by knowing, will create in the child the confidence and freedom to explore the immensity of whatever seas she wishes to navigate.
Of course, many of our students don't know what seas they wish to explore. For too long they've been told what seas to explore, how to explore them, and how to report out on the results of their explorations, which, by and large, are the exact same reports that generations of children before them have churned out.
Let us strive to listen to our students' passions and inspire our students towards the immensity of their future...even if, in such striving, we must (together with our students) fight against currents that seek to bear us ceaselessly into the past.