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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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A closeup of two kids holding hands.

Winter is an optimal time of year to reflect on how you're doing as a teacher, school leader, or instructional coach. One aspect of your reflection might venture into the terrain of how you're feeling about your job and how your spirit is sustaining the pressures of work. If your spirit is low or lagging, it might be time to fill up your reserves of inspiration.

It's crucial to routinely refuel our inspiration tank in order to sustain our energies in the hard work of education. There are, of course, other things we need to make sure we do -- eat well, sleep, exercise, and laugh, but filling reserves for inspiration is key.

So what's inspiring you these days? What have you seen, heard, experienced, read, listened to, or done that has inspired you?

Refueling Resources

Every day I find things that inspire me in classrooms and schools, in conversations and discussions, and at home and beyond. Here is a selection of some recent sources of inspiration:

  • When kids have opportunities to share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences, I'm inspired. I love this video done in the spring of 2015 by Oakland, CA high school students about police violence.

  • This "Talk to Teachers" article also shares student voices. In these audio clips, Oakland, CA students share their thoughts on how education could change to fit them better. These students had read James Baldwin's essay, "A Talk to Teachers," in which he laid out the influence that teachers have. Students dissected the text and identified criteria for powerful writing, and then they wrote their own letters to teachers.

  • Shannon Carey, the teacher who designed the aforementioned letter writing activity, is a huge inspiration to me. She has been teaching in the Oakland Unified School District in California since 1992 and leads in a most compassionate and quiet way. She is an artist, a writer, and an educator extraordinaire, and this year she's sharing a powerful blog called, "My Year of Teaching Dangerously." There is so much we can learn from teachers like Shannon.

  • FuelEd is an organization based in Houston that works with teachers and leaders to strengthen the social and emotional competencies necessary for building strong relationships in schools. This organization is doing critical work to build teacher resilience, and I hope to learn more from them.

  • I'm inspired by anyone, anywhere, who is paying attention to the social and emotional experience of children and adults. This article, Mantras Before Math Class, published in The Atlantic last month, describes the experience of a number of schools where meditation has been introduced into urban secondary classrooms. Learn about why middle school students from Visitation Valley, located in one of San Francisco's most violent neighborhoods, scored higher for happiness than any other school in San Francisco, and why suspensions at that school have plummeted while attendance is at 98 percent.

  • If you're not familiar with the Daily Good, check them out, and get on their newsletter. I love their daily emails and find many resources for inspiration through their site.

  • Finally, this TED talk, Hidden Miracles of the Natural World, is a beautiful reminder of a different kind of power.

Our brains are wired to look at and listen for what's not working -- they are designed to have a "negativity bias." Because of neuroplasticity our brains can grow and change; we can shift this tendency, but it takes work. We need to seek out inspiration and hope and fuel our reserves.

So what's inspired you lately? Please share in the comments section below.

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Mike Petty's picture

Thank you for the links to other resources and thoughts!

I've spent a lot of time this school year focusing on inspiration and "teaching like an artist". It's about staying inspired to inspire others. It starts with a dream (which every teacher has or, sadly, had). Then we need to do the hard work to make it real. Finally, like any artist, we have to show off the final result. That leads to inspiration which perpetuates the cycle.

For over 20 years I've seen the routine of school squelch teachers' dreams. While I primarily work in ed-tech, much of my focus is on reminding teachers to dream again. That's where excitement starts for them and their students.

I recently created a free journal guide for self-reflection called 31 Days of Teaching Like an Artist. Please take a look if this is something you or colleagues might want to explore further.

http://www.teachinglikeanartist.com/p/journal.html

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