Images from http://www.vend.ly/43516
This is a love letter to inspiration. A thank you for everything it has done for me, and an acknowledgement that without it I would be a very different person, teacher, and parent. Previously I have written about creativity and was asked then, and since, where I get my inspiration from. In the same way that I had never considered myself creative, until it was pointed out to me that I might be, I had never given my inspirations any thought.
While considering the topic of inspiration I framed my thinking using these questions: Without inspiration would there be creativity? What would teachers without inspiration be like? Would you send your children into classes with teachers who have not been inspired into the profession? What inspires me to teach the way I do? Do teachers recognise they are inspirational to those they teach and also to their colleagues?
Google ‘inspiration’ and you find out about mind-mapping software. Look on Wikipedia and you get this:
I don’t know if I would separate artistic and creative inspiration. So it turns out googling inspiration, is actually less than inspiring. Hum. I started to wonder if writing about inspiration was going to be like trying to bottle clouds, maybe it is intangible and so subjective and personal that it is impossible to say anything meaningful about it. I thought I would try asking others what inspired them – some of the replies were so touching and beautiful they captured in 140 characters or less exactly the essence of what inspiration is, and what it means to be inspired or inspiring.
There are two types of answer you tend to get from teachers if you ask about inspiration. The first is a heartfelt recognition from teachers that their inspiration was a teacher from their past, that one special person who sparked a love of a particular subject or a love of learning or was just there to support their students. I love reading these; it’s so warming and genuine and indicates that a desire to create good in the world, and make positive change, is what hallmarks inspiration. The second type of answer you tend to get is from the ‘I-hated-school-and-all-my-teachers’ brigade. Sadly I belong to this category. School for me was uncomfortable at best, and torturous at worst. I, and many other teachers, were inspired to go into teaching to make amends for our own educational experiences. I guess the inspiration is to be the teacher you wanted/needed when you were at school. Both of these inspirations for teaching present as a false dichotomy, but it’s surprising how many teachers fall into one of these categories.
Other teachers rightly pointed to their family and friends as inspirations. Some were inspired by the sacrifices their families had made in order for them to be successful, or by very personal circumstances that I found poignant. It’s hard not to feel inspired yourself reading such honest and open comments.
The importance of art, music and film was also noted, reaffirming my belief that inspiration for individuals can lie outside the discipline of teaching. It is probably the culmination of their lives interests and as adults they are still sparked into action by many of the same things they loved growing up. Music is a dynamic motivator and holds a dear place in the hearts of many teachers. I start every lesson with music, and find it the most powerful inspiration, not just for thoughts but for evoking emotions
Life itself was noted as a source of inspiration, and for me, this very inclusive answer is reflective and insightful, encompassing a depth of passion and curiosity that hallmarks great teachers. I was also interested to see faith was cited as a source of inspiration, which in what I perceive as an increasingly secular world, was a surprise, but expressed with a sincerity that I found very touching.
Perhaps the most fundamental inspiration highlighted by the teachers I asked, was the inspiration provided by other teachers, or a driving desire to be the inspiration. Amongst comments I received were statements such as ‘a desire to be better tomorrow’, ‘to be the best I can be for colleagues and pupils’ and ‘to share with the wider teaching community’. This totally describes my extrinsic motivation for teaching, but I’m not sure it’s the same as my inspiration.
I think I am inspired by a drive to make each learner fulfil their potential; nothing gives me greater professional pleasure than to see learners go above and beyond what they thought themselves capable of. In terms of how am I inspired to do this, music is a major factor, as has been talking to some individual teachers whose values and ideas I really admire (no name checks, they know who they are). However, when it comes right down to it, how am I inspired to teach the way I do? I don’t know. I’ve always done it this way, essentially I am paid to teach people how to write essays under exam conditions. Knowledge acquisition is really the easy side, it’s the exam and essay techniques requiring higher order skills such as evaluation that my learners struggle with. So why not draw round them to create CSI style murder victim outlines? Why not create 3D models that demonstrate theoretical perspectives of class? Why not make planning 3D? Why not build bridges between tables to demonstrate theoretical links? Just because the subject is for post-16 I see no reason for everything to be flat on paper. Seeing students engaged in their learning, taking possession of it and taking responsibility for their own progress is never less than inspiring. I can’t bear delivering lessons by PowerPoint. I don’t like busy work designed to purely fill time – students deserve better than work sheets that were not even made for them. I’m inspired by making things better and by showing learners that they can do the same.
To be the type of teacher I want to be I need inspiration. It gets me through the hard days but it has also encouraged me to share my ideas with others. It’s not just about whether I would be happy sending my own children to a school with teachers who have no inspiration – all learners deserve, and should demand, teachers who have passion that comes from inspiration. The wider community, your own peers, your pupils, all can be a massive source of this inspiration. Grasp it, you need it, allow yourself to be inspired and you will be inspiring.
I guess through me sharing my ideas, seeing photographs of others using my ideas in lessons, or talking about them at TeachMeets, I might be a source of inspiration. This is amazing and I feel blown away that I can inspire others. Keep sharing ideas and let the inspiration flow.
What follows are some really interesting tweets that I got in respond to ‘what inspires you.’ Enjoy.