I enjoyed your analogy of the “universe of possibility” to the World of Warcraft. It’s so true that when you play that game a lot you start to think normal thoughts in game-mode! What a neat way to think of the possible scenarios, choices, and outcomes of our everyday lives. It also helps with the fear of risk-taking and assessment if you think of it like a game, with more chances. I feel the same way as you do though, that although we would love to partake in the “giving the A” philosophy, sometimes the system just does not allow for it: at least in the sense he describes. Although parts of the educational structure are constructs, many elements are very concrete and simply required. We have to make our kids understand the information by the time of the standardized tests. We have to have an organized environment in our rooms. We have to follow the rules of discipline in our schools. Without these constraints, even if we don’t agree with them, our job would be compromised. So, there must be a balance between supporting our students’ free-expression and intellectual development, and actually imparting the knowledge. I think we are already doing a version of the “giving the A” mindset, just in subtle, content & location specific ways. If we just challenge the kids to be themselves and understand the need for bettering themselves for the future, we will have won as teachers.
Oh, and I agree that inspiration is vicarious. All these extra requirements of teaching that don’t actually improve our skills, but bog us down and overwhelm us…and it most certainly gets transferred to the students! Until people that aren’t actually teaching stop making poor decisions regarding the structure of our education system, we have to suffice with the small changes we have control over.
Anne's Original Post:
Recently I had the opportunity to be introduced to the World of Warcraft during a class on Gaming Strategies and Motivation. My guides for the excursion into this alternate reality were my two youngest sons, Stephen and Andrew. We had some interesting adventures and I spent way more time than I thought I would in this strange land. Many of the quests would take hours and I would go to bed dreaming that I was running through a field, trying to find my corpse so I could bring my lifeless body back to life. I would leave my house in the morning and I started thinking of everything in my life as part of the game. Following the same road, noting landmarks along the way, entering the building where I work, walking down the corridor, opening doors like I was on some quest. As I read the book, "The Art of Possibility" by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander and came to the first chapter, it didn't take much to convince this reader that it is all created.
Who makes the rules anyway and what were they thinking? Seriously, if we never colored outside the lines, where would we be? If we define ourselves by our perceptions of what our administrators, legislators, students or their parents think of us; where would we be? Given the current state of affairs in education, I'd much rather step into a "universe of possibilities" where I can have some control over my perception of the reality. If teachers are going to inspire their students, they need to have some inspiration. Budget cuts, meetings, more reports, standardized testing, learning gains and AYP, do not count as inspiration. If we are going introduce our students to the world of possibilities, we need to make sure that we are acquainted with the terrain.
I would love to give my students an A and differentiate my instruction to better meet the needs of my students, but the system that I work in doesn't support that goal. It is wrong to tell a student to seize the universe of possibilities and invent his own path to success, when there is a big bad test at the end of the year that is going to determine whether he passes or fails. We simply need more options in our system to allow students more control over their future and the opportunity to experience the universe of possibility. We need to re-think the rules and create some new possibilities.