The Art of Possibility
First of all, I want to say that this book is absolutely amazing and the first text book that I have ever read in my life that is an actual page turner. I love all the stories and student words, as well as how it reverts back and forth between the authors. It is so down to earth and inspirational. This morning, I bought 3 copies on Amazon—one for me, and one for my mom and dad. Their philosophies are so profound and echo my own very closely. I love the concept of contribution in life, “giving the A”, and just reaching beyond the constructs and conventions of society. I would like to make some chapter specific reflections:
“It’s All Invented”
I thought the discussion about perception, and how humans have specific mind maps to understand the world around them that are developed over their whole lives was very interesting. I have noticed in my teaching that students have very different mind maps, priorities, and preconceptions than when I was in high school 7 years ago. We all, but especially them, in their little bubbles, do not step back and think about how our minds work. It is so true that there are frameworks in all of our minds that are influenced by categorizing, story-line organization, and a network of assumptions.
“Stepping Into A Universe of Possibility”
I liked the discussion here about the world of measurement vs. the universe of possibility; how people live in the world of measurement and there are hierarchies of what is safe, how to survive in a world of limited resources. I never had thought about how scarcity-thinking and survival-thinking are different from the actual condition; how pressure from invented realities or fear of what could happen causes unnecessary anxiety. This phenomena reminds me of a part in the young adult novel The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993). The setting is a future “perfect” society in which everything is cut and dry, literal, and void of all emotion. There, young children are beaten if they were to say, “I’m starving”, because it is a lie, an exaggeration of the hunger feeling. In our society, so many things are also taken out of context. They get so far gone that the construct becomes the assumed reality. I feel that has happened with the process of standardized testing (which we are in the midst of right now), and how learning, and in turn funding for the school, is catered to performance on this test. Isn’t the convention of taking a final assessment being a good measure of learning completely blown out of proportion here? Do we really have the best intentions for our children in mind? And it is being transferred because now, with a month of school left, kids think they are “done” and can totally slack (and let go with their manners) because testing is over. How much better would it be if we were teaching them that learning has no culminating end, that there are profound concepts to be learned that can’t be answered in multiple choice format, and that everything in life cannot be re-done and re-done until you pass?
As stressed in the reading, the important thing is to reflect on HOW thoughts and actions ARE a reflection off the conventions of a measurement world. If I could somehow transfer just that simple concept to my students, I think they would grow a lot in all facets of their life.
Chapter 3 and 4 “Giving” and “Contributing”
What a beautiful story about the starfish woman to start chapter 4. I had heard it before, but often thought of it and similar stories (like you read in FW emails) on my worst days of teaching. When I want to give up because some ignorant students called me a bleep bleep bleep or smashed someone else’s artwork or threw a chair or clogged my sink or hid a dirty paintbrush, I try to remember the subtle positive changes I MUST have made somewhere along the road. The smiles, the hearsay of students mentioning artists we have learned about in other classes, the Facebook requests after graduation, the thanks, the personal growth that is shown in their artwork over time in my class. This is what makes it worthwhile to get through the struggles. And as a veteran teacher once told me, “high school students are like daffodils…they may not bloom the first year, in fact they might just stay in the dirt. But you still water ‘em and give it your best. Then, many years down the road, they will bloom and it will be from something you planted or helped with—even if you never are around to see it.”I thought the concept of “Giving An A” was beautiful, especially when explained through those amazing student responses. The Michelangelo “revealing the statue” analogy also made sense. I kind of already do that in my grading philosophy, although I don’t discuss it as an instigation of creativity as he does. I can understand that this theory would be great in music class, because there is so much risk-taking involved in being expressive. I laughed out loud at what they do when they make a mistake—putting their hands in the air and saying “how fascinating!” I do that in my own way too. Its more in the line of: student spills something or breaks something or messes something up, and then gives me that scared look of apprehension, like I’m about to go off. Even though I want to, I always remember how my mom reacted to me when I had accidents…and how sad I feelwhen I see the opposite in a store or on a movie (like a mom slapping or cussing at a kid for making a simple mistake). Making these small choices to look beyond the initial negative reaction is what makes us richer individuals and better leaders. I will try to “re-define” my audience as Roz did to her group of graduate students. They are all great artists, eager and ready to participate and create (maybe I should make that my screen saver J ) I AM a gift to others and so are they!
Shaffner, P. (2007). Starfish_02_(paulshaffner). Available under creative commons at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Starfish_02_(paulshaffner).jpg
Zander, B. & Zander, R. (2000). The art of possibility. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.