Creating Educational Art: What is stopping you?

I used to walk into museums and look at art pieces and think, “Man that is so simple.  I could have done that!”  I used to walk around kind of arrogant and not really appreciating the art.  As I grew older my perspective changed and I started appreciating art in a different light.  Modern pieces are not always my favorite, but I can at least wonder what exactly the artist is trying to say.  The work that was put into the piece was tremendous even if I cannot always relate with the feelings the person was trying to convey. 
Recently, in the Louisiana Museum of Art I walked along an artist’s creation that had a gravel ground with a stream of water flowing through the space, which carved its own path.  The people in the space were quiet and almost reverent as everyone took in the sight.  Years ago, I would have scoffed.  Today I marveled and wondered with all kinds of questions bursting forth and I ended up looking through the book in the gift shop to try to find the meaning.  I didn't find it, but it was a neat experience walking through what should have been outdoors inside as an interactive art piece.  So again, my mind goes to the place it always goes:  I could have done that.  All they did was lay rocks in a way that caused a downhill slope and let water flow down it.     

This was an amazing piece.
Louisiana Museum of Art, DK

But recently, my internal dialogue has been turned away from the arrogance and produced this question:  Why didn't you?

I think as teachers we need to ask this question when we are conducting research or watching other teachers instruct their classes.  When I was a newer teacher, I used to look on in amazement of some teachers who took insane risks, but their classes learned tremendous amounts.  It just seemed out of reach at the time.

There were many doubting ideas that would always nag at my consciousness about my own insecurities.  I often felt I did not have enough time to create the creative lessons I saw others do.  I also felt that what some of them were doing I might never be able to accomplish.  There was always that question, “Why didn't I think of that?” or “Why am I not creative enough?” or “Could I do that if I had infinite amounts of time?” 

I think that most teachers go through this phase of their career where you see veterans look like they just know what they are doing.  The new teacher does not realize that one day they will become the calm, collected, veteran teacher.  That everything that they learn along the way will help them grow as educators.  The best lesson I learned years ago was to share with others what you have learned and use what other educators have created that works.  All of the sharing often causes memories and ideas to be stirred up within the brain.  I have a passion for creative thinking and love when my brain goes into this mode, but I could only go there when I had become comfortable enough with my own teaching and classroom.

The reverse is also true.  There are teachers who after some time feel like they have walked the road and made it to the end with nothing left to see.  Instead of feeling unsure when a different teacher comes up with something new you should ask the question, “Why am I not doing the same thing?”  I suppose that some people have different comfort zones or willingness to try different things, but shouldn't we all be trying to expand into different ways?  I have had teachers see what I have been doing and stare in amazement before stating their wishes to be able to do what I have done.  I often offer to show people what I have done with the technology I use, but rarely have I been given an opportunity to teach other teachers.  It is almost like we as human beings stop ourselves from growing in order to be able to preserve what we do know instead of trying something that might be a disaster.  I have been guilty of this as well. 

Could I have created this art piece?  Sure.  Why didn't I?
Louisiana Museum of Art, DK
So next time you see something that someone else has created and you think you could have done it ask yourself:

Why didn't you do it? 

Why didn't you take the risk to make something better? 

Why did you only create a worksheet instead of building your educational equivalent of the river bed in a museum? 

What was holding you back?  Your own fears?  Something else? 

What is it that you need?

Just be self-aware.  Analyze your internal monologue.  It is probably trying to tell you something.  And, maybe you need to change the conversation you are having with yourself.  Stay away from the dark paths.  You all have what it takes.  Just take some time to figure out how to solve the many problems the classroom can bring you.

One thing I have learned over time is that we each control our mood in the classroom.  I used to go to some dark and upset places when teaching didn't go my way.  I often felt I wasn't good enough or maybe the teaching path wasn't for me.  I was wrong then and have since been able to drag myself out of that thought process.  You are the teacher.  You create the classroom environment.  What you put out into the room is what will help the students and people within it grow.  Stay positive.  Even if it is hard sometimes.  Over time you will find that in your own way you are creating that waterfall with your students every single day as you help their beautiful minds grow.       

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