March 31, 2011

"How to Steal..."

Yeah, I thought that might get your attention.  Actually the whole title is, 'How to Steal Like an Artist (And 9 Other Things Nobody Told Me)". I ran across it in my Reader at 3 a.m. (the 3 a.m. part is a whole other story) and although I've been reading Austin Kleon's work for a couple of months now, I've never had the opportunity to read a post of his that was not blacked out. The post was part of his talk at Broome Community College in Binghamton, New York.

As I read through his points I kept thinking that my colleagues and students might actually benefit from some of the 'wisdom' Austin shares. So let's take a look at some of these (you should probably read his post before you read my commentary.  Go ahead....I'll wait.)

"All advice is autobiographical." - Smack me in my forehead! Of course it is! (For some reason a light bulb goes off.) When you give advice, it comes from (at least I hope) your own personal experience. Which means that if I get advice from others, it's based on their own experiences.  So if we continue seeking out those who are in our 'comfort zone' (which I assume most members of our PLNs are), then we are really just hearing the same ole, same ole.  And if we are looking to make changes in the educational climate, how can we best provide new experiences?

"Steal like an artist." - Why reinvent the wheel?  I'm sure if we look hard enough and ask enough people, we will see that our 'new & improved' is really not.  It's been done before.  BUT!!! That's OK! Take what works from that and move on to the next thing and take what's best from that and keep on moving on.

"Nothing is original." - Every 'new' idea is really a mashup of something old. But you know what? There's NOTHING wrong with that! As long as you have improved upon the original idea.

"The artist is a collector." - And so are educators.  We tend to collect ideas and movements (and what word am I looking for here?).  You know, all those workshops/seminars/PD days you attended on a variety of topics, such as Cooperative Learning, Differentiated Instruction, Reponsive Classroom, PBIS, Hunter, Bloom, and on, and on, and on.

"Garbage In, Garbage Out" - I'm still digesting this one, but feel free to expand upon it in the comment section.  I'm basically looking at it as program changes which administration demands of teachers that we feel (and some of us actually have research to back up our feelings) is just not the right thing to do.  So we implement the changes (garbage in) and we see the results in our students (garbage out).  I'd like to sit here and type that as educators we need to be more vocal, but the thing is, I think we already are.  So why is noone listening? Is it because we are preaching to the choir? If that's the case, how can we affect change? I don't know about you, but quite frankly, I'm tired of sitting on committees whose outcomes have already been determined before I even entered the room.

"Don't wait until you know who you are to start making things." - How many of us have thought that there were things we could not undertake because we had not yet been trained, or we didn't have just the right equipment, etc.  I believe I read somewhere about , 'go forth and ye shall receive'.  Maybe we need to stop making excuses for not taking action and just do it (I believe those last words come from Nike.)  Can our students afford to have us wait until everything is in place? Do what you can with what you have.

"Write the book you want to read." and "Write what you like." - WOW! I know, I know. We all have some sort of accountability built into our teaching, but do you see the power that I see in these two phrases if we were to share these with our students? I'm DEFINITELY writing these across my blackboard in school on Monday (yeah, that's another story too).

"Use your hands." and "Side projects and hobbies are important." - I think the Google 80/20 model has it right.  A percentage of your time is spent pursuing things that you are interested in. I think that we need to take a serious look at this and see if we can build it into our school day. (Don't fall into the "I have to wait until I can" trap. -- see 2 paragraphs above.) Start small. For most of us I'm sure we can find 15 minutes to spare. And if you don't know where to begin, let your students lead the way.

"Do good work and put it where people can see." - It's all about the PR folks! I know, I know. You're probably saying that you post your students' work on the blog, or the website, yada, yada, yada. It's all about being global.  Yes, that's true. HOWEVER! let's look to bring some of that back home. If you're a foodie, remember how it used to be about getting ingredients that were as exotic as could be? Now it's all about locally grown/harvested products? I think we can think the same about what we share out. Let's start letting our community know what is going on in our classrooms. Check out the corner gas station, they could probably use some new window displays. You have a fast food joint down the street, I'm sure they'd be happy to show support. GET IT OUT THERE!!!

The other side of this is to share what you have created, so that others might make it there own and make it better and in turn share with others (and perhaps even you!). Remember, what you've created probably isn't original anyway.

"Geography is no longer our master." - Chewing on this one as well. I believe in reaching out (as far as I can) to tap into the wisdom of the crowd. But I also feel strongly about forming bonds with those nearby.

"Be nice." - That should go without saying. And in this cyberage we try to teach our students that there is no such thing as a delete button online. There are times that I wish we would heed our own advice. Remember, if you don't have anything nice to say you should probably keep it to yourself. If you do share it digitally it will (eventually) come back to bite you.