The other day, during a rare window of open time, I found myself transfixed by the interview that Krista Tippet did with Seth Godin. When Tippet introduced Godin’s thinking by saying, “We are invited and stretched in whatever we do to be artists — to create in ways that matter to other people,” I was hooked.
Later in the interview Godin talks about technology and creating: “…[T]hat’s what we all get to do now, is stand up and I say, I made this, here I am. And be an artist, rather than a cog. But it’s in human terms very challenging, very, very exacting. And probably feels impossible to a lot of people.”
I agree! Engagement is about creation and creation doesn’t matter unless it has meaning. Too often, at the begging of a unit I hear students say things like, “I don’t write poetry,” or “That’s not happening.” I often put up the same walls for myself and hear my internal voice attempting to shut me down before I start.
The amazing poet Naomi Shihab Nye puts it well (while paraphrasing William Stafford) when she says that the question is not about how someone started to be a poet (or an artist, or a creator) but that the question should be: When did everyone else stop?
I believe that when we create the opportunities for students to try out different roles and identities, the results often surpass all of our expectations (including the expectations of the students themselves.) Throughout the school year I am amazed by the work that gets produced as my students transform themselves into visual artists, radio journalists, playwrights, dancers, poets, courtroom prosecutors, and many other examples of artists and creators.
Education matters when it involves exploration, challenges, and creation. Experiences that allow us to recreate and rediscover ourselves are experiences that matter to all of us, regardless of age.