Thursday, May 6, 2010

Teachers as Artists (Linchpin Thoughts part 1)

Ruminating on my future as a teacher the other day led me to a startling uncertainty. Am I a fraud?

How can I possibly be inspiring my students to BE more, LIVE more, and MAKE IT in the world, when sometimes I feel like I haven't done that. Doesn't that make me a hypocrite? Are all teachers ordinary people masquerading as intellectually and socially outstanding?  Is it true that "Those who can't do, teach." What can I do?

Would I want my child being inspired by someone who just met the status-quo (and sometimes not even that)? How is a struggling learner going to believe me when I say "you can achieve your dreams" if I haven't achieved mine? Why would a high achieving student take me seriously if my aspirations are set lower than hers? Aren't teachers supposed to be leaders? To be setting not just good- but the best- examples for our students?!

Right in the middle of my existential crisis, I stumbled upon the book Linchpin: Are You Indispensable by Seth Godin.  Though it's been out for a while it wasn't available in my local library so I shelled out the twenty-five dollars for a pristine hardback copy and I'm glad I did-- this book might just change my life. Or at least my outlook on life.

There are hundreds of great posts reviewing this book, check them out if you need a typical book review. Below (and in future posts as I continue reading this book) I'll share my thoughts on the content through the eyes of a teacher.

Teachers as Artists

Godin defines art as, "....something one human does, that creates change in another...."

By this definition we, as teachers, should all be artists. Period. Artists are not happy with achieving the norm, but strive indefinitely to take risks, create new solutions to problems, and bring themselves and others to a higher level.

Artists turn even the most mundane tasks into an art form. Godin writes of a coffee shop attendant who showed prodigious customer service and pride in his work. He turns wiping tables in a coffee shop into an art form, therefore making himself an artist, a linchpin in his field.

After reading the section last night I switched to watching reruns of King of the Hill as I fell asleep. I missed the first part of the show but caught the perfect scene of Peggy Hill bagging groceries.  This perfectly illustrated Godin's point! If you've watched this show before you know that Peggy is full of herself, and in true narcissist spirit she was bragging about how it may not be brain surgery, but no brain surgeon could bag groceries like she could. She took a menial job and turned it into art, she is an artist at bagging groceries.

Shouldn't we, as possibly the second most important people in a child's life, be artists?

Teachers need to be artists in our craft, and have something by way of an achievement to use as a personal example for our students. We need to be artists of teaching, certainly...but I think we should go even further and be artists in other ways too. It's a step to becoming a linchpin, but more importantly a step towards reaching students and giving them concrete examples of success.

So it leads me to I an artist?

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