I wrote about this quotation back in 2011 in a previous iteration of this blog, originally called “Big Styrofoam Things” and then “Only Connect.” I repost those words here:
I’ve read a lot of books on creativity and creative thinking and about how it helps students develop flexible, adaptable habits of mind–a key component for success in an ever changing world. Quotations by Antoine de Saint-Exupery fill those books.
One might argue that they ought to fill the minds of all the adults who work in our schools as well, for we are, in a sense, engaged in building a ship–the ship that will bear us into the future. If we wish to be successful in that endeavor, we ought to heed Saint-Exupery’s words.
I’m not saying that students don’t need work and assigned tasks. We all need those things, but they must be meaningful. They must be things that, by knowing, will create in the child the confidence and freedom to further explore, in more depth and detail, the immensity and mystery of whatever seas she wishes to navigate.
Of course, many of our students don’t know what seas they wish to explore. For too long they’ve been told what seas to explore, how to explore them, and how to report out on the results of their explorations, which, by and large, are the exact same reports that generations of children before them have churned out.
Let us strive to listen to our students’ passions and inspire our students towards the immensity of their future…even if, in such striving, we must (together with our students) fight against currents that seek to bear us ceaselessly into the past.
To this very end, I’ve begun to engage my students in projects that are driven by their own interests and ideas. Alternately called “Passion Projects,” “20 Time Projects,” even “Genius Hour,” these projects have yielded some of the most amazing work I’ve seen since my middle-school students were engaged in design competitions sponsored by the Industrial Designers Society of America in 2012 and 2013.
Recent Examples at the High School Level include: Communication in Motion (a dance troop focused on dances about injustice and discrimination), Transitions (stop-motion animation about the 5 stages of grief…along with a great blog here).
A big thanks to A.J. Juliani, John Spencer, and Don Wettrick for getting me started on this road to more student guided inquiry, but it was all kicked off by a district that trusted me and my ideas enough to hire me, offer me guidance, and then get out of my way, which is really what any great administration will do: Hire the best, offer them guidance and support, and then get out of their way. As a matter of fact, I am driven as a teacher by a similar philosophy, which I explained, very early in my career, this way:
“When we trust our students, empower them to take charge of their education, and offer them the necessary guidance, they will astound us.” Garreth Heidt