*When we are in our element we feel we are doing what we are meant to be doing and being who we are meant to be.
Rarely do we attend a conference on the future of education and learning where Sir Ken Robinson is not quoted or referenced. The TED Talk that initially caught our attention ‘Schools Kill Creativity‘ has had about nine and a half million views and his book, The Element is a New York Times bestseller. I am grateful for Sir Ken and how he has influenced, promoted and challenged our thinking about the need for change, and the imperative that we think about it in terms of the individual, the learner, the student.
The learning revolution is not about content, it’s about people.
The concept of being in your element is a powerful one. The by-line of the book is “How finding your passion changes everything”.
When I talk about educational change I try to get the educators, both teachers and leaders, to put themselves in the shoes of the student. When I talk about the learning environment I usually ask questions like:
What sort of spaces enable you to be productive and creative?
What places inspire you?
Then I question: Isn’t it the same for our students? Do you think that walking into a square box, with bare brick walls, desks and chairs in rows with little natural light and old books and papers stacked up in the corner will inspire them?
It’s the same process with helping educators understand that students can be in their element.
Step 1 is to get the educators to think about their own passions
Step 2 to think about them from the students’ perspectives
When I am in my element I need very little extrinsic motivation, I will throw myself into it because there is passion, I am intrinsically motivated. As Seymour Papert writes, work is “hard fun”.
When am I in my element? There are two things in particular, both interrelated. One, I am doing right now, the other is another expression of the same.
One of my passions is to help people to know the potential that they have and to follow their passion. This is why the work of Sir Ken resonated so deeply with me, as so many of us were disconnected from learning when we were at school. I loved the stories in The Element of how people were transformed by being able to pursue their passions. Writing has been a long-held passion and this blog, that I started in earnest about a year ago, is an expression of my creativity and knowing that people read and appreciate it is an added bonus.
In the same way, I really enjoy sharing ideas and challenging thinking when I speak to groups. I was reminded this week when I was asked to share some of my experiences of the education systems in Scandinavia to a group of architects and school leaders. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and people seemed to find it helpful.
So, my challenges to you:
In your everyday, walking around life, when are you in your element? Whether at work, interests or community activity? How does this feel?
If you are in education, are you enabling this same sense of satisfaction and exhilaration for your students? How can you help them to find their passion?
The learning revolution needs passionate educators who will inspire young people.
Is that you?
PS. Here’s a challenge:
Are you in education, but are not passionate about young people, their potential and the quality of relationship with students?
Do you think your content knowledge is more important than what the learner needs to know?
Is teaching a ‘lifestyle choice’ rather than a passion?
I’m giving you permission to change careers. Our young people need educators who:
Care about young people and their future
Value the quality of relationship as an essential part of learning
Are passionate about teaching and young people
Are in their element.
*Robinson, 2009, The Element: How finding your passion changes everything