Aspiring to Inspire

Recently, while at a workshop I was struck by the claim of a participant that our focus in education must be to design schools for those who want to learn and that some students have no desire or capability to be successful in their learning.

I’ve always struggled in articulating what my heart wants me to say in moments like these. So now as I reflect, I know precisely what I would have spoken up and said, “Sir, you are 100% correct. Students will aspire to the expectations we inspire!!”

If we already walk into our classroom and assume that only half of our students are capable. You know what, half our students will seem like complete duds no matter what they do for us. Don’t set the bar low for students…see the greatness in each and every one of them. Inspire them to that inner greatness. Yes, I’m an idealist and I’m unrepentant of that fact. Yet, I also recognize that the only aspect I can directly control in a students’ life is my attitude towards them.

The students who walk through that door are in the process of becoming masterpieces for a work we truly have no conception of…so how dare us assume we know (oh how stained is my guilt of this!!).

Our students arrive in this world as blocks of the finest marble and we are entrusted as Michelangelo, but fleetingly in their life. Let the mark we leave be a chip towards helping them realize their masterpiece, not a brazen whack that splits the whole.

Okay, thank you. I really needed to get that off my chest! 🙂

Have a wonderful rest of the week and let us aspire to inspire those around us! 

Paradigm #4 – You Don’t Get It

Of the five paradigms that I’ve spent the past few posts exploring, this one stands out as the most dangerous pitfall for those involved in preparing our youth. It’s easy to develop a ‘bunker-like mentality’ in the roles we play because of the isolation of our roles.

As parents, we are isolated in our parenting at home…so of course no one gets what we have to put up with especially those teachers who complain about my child, but they don’t see the mounds of homework piling up after sports practices, all I want is to raise a good and honest child.

As teachers, we are isolated in our classrooms…so of course no one gets what we have to put up with especially those administrators who add more layers of paperwork, but they don’t see the hours I’m putting into a part-time job so I can pay for my family’s bills while still planning lessons that will inspire my students.

As administrators, we are isolated in our offices…so of course no one gets what we have to put up with especially those parents and nagging teachers who feel entitled in telling me how to do my job, but they don’t see all the decisions I have to make that are going to have a financial impact on our school and district to help our students.

As policy-makers, we are isolated in our ivory towers…so of course no one gets what we have to put up with especially, those pesky administrators who try to always explain why our ideas won’t work, but they don’t see the countless efforts poured into researching these options and the nights left awake thinking about how to best help students succeed. 

When we entrench ourselves into our roles and refuse to credit the perspectives and values of other stakeholders in this journey of educating our youth, we all lose. Generally, those involved in the work of education view it as a calling, a strongly held conviction…why then are there so many turf wars over the basic concept of education (maybe it is due to the extreme variety in strongly held convictions)? If the African Proverb that says, “It takes a whole village to raise a child,” is true, then why in many educational settings have we adopted a “we vs them” mentality?

In the beautiful book, The Choice: In Teaching and Education, by The Arbinger Institute. There are two applications drawn from Principle 4 – I Build Community, that I would like to quote below that are directly tied to this paradigm:

“Application 4.3: Building Community with Families

Compared to other educators in the lives of those I would teach, my educational role is small and insignificant. The people with whom students spend most hours of every day are the ones who most influence learning. 

So if my Objective is to inspire learning, as best I can I help father, mother, or others as well. No one should feel more welcome in the halls and rooms of a school than those whose homes are the center places of learning.” (p. 66)

“Application 4.4: Building Community with the Community

A community is an organism — some parts old and others young. All parts beholden one to one another. For the oldest and wisest among us is so because he has learned in the presence of others. 

Education is the lifeblood of a community’s continued existence. We have an obligation one to another. There are many in every community who feel this call. They should be involved in the educational endeavor. 

As mentors, as tutors, as men and women to be admired — there are so many roles that need filling. Every school and every classroom should be community space, for it is the community’s future that is learning. 

There is much goodwill among people today. So many who will willingly help. Collectively their learning so far exceeds mine, I’d be negligent not to ask for their help.” (p. 68 & 69)

We have a choice in this educational endeavor…we can seek to understand or seek to be understood. By seeking to understand the heart of all those involved in this great process of learning, we will discover that our goals are all closely aligned. We all seek to better our next generation, we view it not only as our duty, but an honor and privilege to be engaged in that undertaking.

Let us seek together to create win-win dynamics in our education system by looking beyond our self-created bunkers and envisioning a community dedicated to learning that will raise this generation.

Teacher Challenge: Bring in a community member who could serve as a guest speaker and bring to life a topic area you are exploring in class.

Learner Challenge: If you are in a season where you are looking for a mentor in your educational journey, seek one who is serving in a different role and capacity than you. Seek to understand their role, perspectives, and associated values to deepen your understanding of the connective web of education and learning in our world.