When a teacher becomes an artist


I was recently reading a book about productivity, and I happened upon two quotes that have really stuck with me:

The single most important change you can make in your working habits is to switch to creative work first, reactive work second.  This means blocking off a large chunk of time every day for creative work on your own priorities…


No one likes the feeling that other people are waiting – impatiently – for a response.

These quotes happen early in the book, and part of me was ready to put the book down and move on.  This is a book for artists, for people who don’t have seven hours every day already scheduled for them.  What does this have to do with teaching?

Of course, I know that isn’t true.  The reason I left a desk job to become a teacher is because I had a passion for making math known, and if that can be done without creative thinking, then we need to stop trying.  In fact, most of my summer reading has unintentionally centered around the idea of a teacher’s being challenged to be more creative.  I believe that to grow as a teacher, I must be challenging myself to be a creator every day.  That is easy to say now, a month removed from the classroom, but if I forget that in September, I am cheating my students out of everything I can give.

Everyone needs to read Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess.  Amazing stuff.

If my students are not hooked, who is to blame? Nothing offends teachers more, it seems,  than telling them that students think their class is boring, but I know that every lesson I can do is not as engaging as it could be.  So first, I recognize that I am part of the problem.  Now, is that something that I can change, or are my students stuck with that lesson because I am who I am.  Dave suggests (demands?) we ask the question “How can I make this lesson outrageously entertaining, engaging, and powerful so that my students will never forget it and will be desperate to come back for more?”  Wow.  Am I asking that question?  Because like Dave says in the book, I am not going to find the answer to that question without first asking it.

As teachers, we must be artists.  Our goal as we grow is not only to become more efficient, better classroom managers, or more comfortable with technology.  We must be creating a year-long experience for our students.  We must forget sometimes about deadlines and all of the people waiting on us.  There is no better time than today.  You will still have emails, papers to grade, paperwork to take care, and meetings to attend tomorrow.  Today, find a way to be creative and make something meaningful for your students.

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