I am attending the Texas Association of Student Council's State Convention in Arlington this week. The theme is "Dare to Dream, Dare to Do." We have, in our first day, heard a speaker talk about daring to be who you are even when it does not seem to be as successful as others, the famous Apple "Crazy Ones" video, and Prince Ea's "Every Dies but Not Everybody Lives." I will share the videos at the end for reference.
They are inspiring and the kids loved them. I hear loud cheers and yells of "YES!" and other agreements throughout the night. Nearly five thousand teenagers and a few hundred educators are being challenged to pursue their dreams, find the real you, and change the world.
That is a great thing!
But, it is not the only thing.
"The Crazy Ones" captures it better than the others. They point out that innovators make the world a better place, they make new things, unique things. But it hints at something else they make.
If you have ever tried to do something new- I mean really new- chances are someone said you couldn't or shouldn't. Maybe they even moved to block you with laws or rules or even by poisoning the well before you had a chance to drink from it. They fed you doubts, they dosed you with fear, they strangled your hope.
But maybe, you didn't listen to them. Maybe you smiled, accepted thier advice with humility, and did it anyway.
Then another opposition arose. This time, it was denial that the benefit was real, or that it could work for others. Others ignore you, thinking your idea will go away, or die on the vine of inspiration. That is bad stuff, but the worst is apathy- no one cares or notices. It is said that many artists die before they are discovered- but how many innovators are NEVER discovered? Or are, and just ahead of their time?
As I saw students get excited about innovation tonight, I was proud of them. I was proud that leaders were trying to challenge students to take risks. But I was also uncomfortable sitting there, waiting for someone to say to the crowd, "Dream- but if you really want to innovate, be ready to be feared, scorned, ignored, and maybe even hated. Be ready to endure, to survive, to struggle. "
I learn much from Batman. In Batman Begins, there is a scene that captures what innovators must do, what "The Crazy Ones" did. Bruce Wayne gets it:
As educators, I hope we do not take on a terrifying symbol, but you get the idea! Bruce Wayne's father had done a great deal to help his city, but nothing was more powerful than his death. Bruce sees that man is finite, but ideas are something else. Men and women who innovate can be ignored, their work destroyed, but if they create something more than themselves, something dramatic (speaking on equality at the feet of Lincoln's Memorial?) something "elemental" (like an Apple?), something everlasting (name your religious figure?), something incorruptible (those who cannot be bought or watered down?).
Tonight, I heard again the phrase "Think outside the box." I have several educator friends who squirm when they hear that, because they know that education will always be in a box of standards and laws drawn up by people not in education. They say, "It is how you innovate inside the box" that has impact. But the box is dangerous, it is costly. And it is often so because of the colleagues who have grown to love the shape and restriction of the box.
I have made changes in my teaching style and structure and room this year. It is innovative, but it also definitely builds on the shoulders of those who have gone before me. My students have- by a vast majority- loved it. They have fully accepted the concept, and started to share it with other students. And sometimes other teachers.
There has been opposition.
Not blatant "that is a terrible idea" opposition, but dismissal that the idea works beyond my room, apathy, and in some cases, completely ignoring what happens. As a person, this hurts, this bothers me. I want teachers to see it- not as a way to wholesale change their teaching, but as a way to reach students and engage them to empowerment beyond their current levels.
But there are other educators. They have embraced, shared and celebrated what happens in what I call the CREATE Classroom- which is called the Didactic Cafe by my students. I have had blogs shared, discussions on Twitter, invites to submit proposals for presentations. I am choosing to see these things, I am choosing to see the students who like different people than when I had them in a traditional class last year, and those who are different in my class than in others today.
I am no Spielberg or Einstein, no Da Vinci or Galileo. I have not rallied a nation like King or Ghandi. I definitely do not have the bank account of Gates or the name recognition of Ali.
But I am an innovator, a dreamer.
I aspire to be a "Crazy One."
And they realize this: It is not enough to dream, sometimes you must fight to make it reality.
So, I say bring it on.
Let's make some symbols.