Stop Stealing Dreams (& Personalities)

stealingI consider myself a ‘spark’ blogger. That is, my ramblings come from something that has struck me that month, week, day, hour.

Whatever it is tends to float around in my head consuming my thoughts until I get it out there. I guess the same is true of any idea until it is written down or realised via action.

Two things have struck me recently that have been floating around my head, and so provided the spark for this latest post.

The man behind Joey Feith recently introduced a new idea (not uncommon for Joey) to his site called “Lil help?”. The first post was from a virtual teacher asking for help and advice on behaviour management. It was a great idea, backed up by amazing responses from the physed community. The PhysEd PLN wrapped their arms around virtual teacher “drill sergeant” and the responses/ advice were free flowing and substantial. See the post and responses here .

At the same time I’ve been reading a manuscript by Seth Godin (who is a bald genius by the way) called “Stop Stealing Dreams.” It got me thinking about what school is for and my place a amongst it all.

Like, what is the purpose (of the whole “process”) of education?

Seth argues that if it is to produce compliant, obedient factory worker style citizens then we are doing a great job.

He actually suggest we are “processing” students like an assembly line which is ironic given his suggestion that the way education is designed prepares them for exactly that type of work. Perhaps no coincidence we are still educating for the industrial age.  A case of “life imitating art” Oscar Wilde may have remarked on our status quo.

Think about your school and your class(es), it may start with “good morning class” to which they reply “good morning Mr/Mrs smith”. Why do we do that? What’s it for?

This is just a small example of how schools and teachers try to foster conformity, remain ‘in charge’ and promote fitting in.

And yet often we give them mixed messages about the importance of being themselves. Well what if “themselves” is talkative, fidgety, argumentative, critical, quiet, lazy?

Are we actually saying, “be yourself, as long as its how we want you to be?!”

At our school (and pretty much every school I’ve been in) we have a learner profile, the new term for the old: values education. The values or qualities that we promote and wish to develop in our students. Things like responsible, respectful, tolerant, courageous etc etc.

Now I’m not suggesting for a moment that we add in lazy or argumentative to our leaner profile, and I do understand  the difference between positive and negative values (I even found a wordle of the good ones below). But please stay with me while I remain fleetingly flippant to pursue my point.

Lazy people can be successful, can’t they? I know some of them personally! They just need to know how to harness their powers of laziness to best effect!

An example, I am currently teaching one of the best problem solver/critical thinking grade 4 students I’ve ever taught. He hates vigorous physical activity. He is fascinating in the way he approaches games and thinks about how to be successful with minimal effort. It’s a constant battle of wills between him and I, and a real challenge for both of us. In his end of year reflection for school, he named PE as his favourite subject! While constantly trying to ensure he gives full effort I also compliment him often on his “efficiency” when it leads to success.

I should also say that I make clear to all students the importance of physical activity in their lives and keeping fit and healthy, what i’m on about here is building on what they bring to the table.

Talkative and argumentative people make good politicians, don’t they?  So lets not supress their ability at an early age! One of the best politicians Australia has ever had is Paul Keating. He could be described as the best “arguer” of all time. Some of his performances in parliament have gone down in history, if you have a spare 5 mins check out his best bits online.  I guess the key here is honing their natural skills of talking and challenging others to be used for good.  Debating, challenging the status quo, changing things, making things better.

Furthermore, fidgety people go on to be the worlds best dancers, don’t believe me? watch this…

I spent the first 6 months of this year trying to get a (new) fidgety student to sit down and listen during class discussions.  My mistake now seems obvious.  I was forgetting that he could listen (or more accurately learn) standing up or walking or skipping or hula hooping for that matter if he really wants to! So now that’s precisely what he does, (along with some others) and they listen to what is going on.  I know they listen (learn) because I ask them stuff.  Im convinced my fidgeter is destined or a movement based profession and here I was holding him back!

My goal for him (and everyone else) was learning, NOT compliance. I was confusing the two as being mutually exclusive.

Commenting on Albert Einstein’s progress, a teacher reported that as a result of poor compliance he “would never amount to much”.


Perhaps then as students go through the conveyor belt ofschool, the system has to be changed from within. Starting with us teachers. We need to be more willing to take a strengths based approach to students and their abilities and personalities rather than “stealing their dreams” or stifling what they bring to the table.

Perhaps the policy making pollies will follow suit and will start considering curriculum that is non-hierarchical for subjects, where choice matters, where students can work on their strengths and interests more and where they don’t have to conform and be tested to within an inch of their lives (with stuff they will neither remember or want to remember).

Big thanks to Dr Ash Casey for bringing the above image to my twitter feed.

So maybe as of 2014 we need not to ask students to jump on our assembly line/ conveyer belt one behind the other but we teachers think about making our conveyor belt wider, deeper, higher, lower, after all we can and should accommodate so many different “parts” for the 21st century.

As always I would love to connect so please let me know your thoughts!


6 thoughts on “Stop Stealing Dreams (& Personalities)

  1. Another great post Ross and one that brings to mind my own peprn blog (#11) that explored David Kirk’s idea that school was more about training compliant pupils than it was about educating. It is easy to get into the habit of ‘being a teacher’ and there are expectations around how to behave. act and even dress. In one of my master’s course the first task I get the students to do is draw the anatomy of the physical education teacher. They do this firstly as individuals, then compare in pairs before coming up with a group answer. The caricature they draw is startling both in terms of the similarity between the students’ ideas and the closeness of this idea to the media stereotype – and these are students who (one the whole) want to be PE teachers. Being seen as a teacher of PE is the first step to be accepted as one and this is the same with the pedagogies used and the mannerism shown. It takes small steps but these are the things that we need to change – just like allow kids to be active while the instructions are given out. Thanks for sharing. Ash

    • I will take the chance to read #11 now for sure. Thanks for your comment, I like the task you have outlined, very interesting and I’m sure it would be fun to be in that class and to see the outcomes! Ross

  2. Hey Ross, Bill Gates is known for hiring “lazy” people within his company because lazy people will find a faster and easier way to do things. They won’t waste time trying different methods if they know that one specific method will solve their problem, generate a new product, etc. This is just a great example of how laziness can actually be a sought out personality trait for some occupations.

  3. Thanks for the comment Sarah- so interesting about B. Gates! You’ve backed up the point I was making, NOT that lazy is desirable, simply that we should be able to take a strengths based approach to whatever kids bring to the table, encourage, love and teach them for simply being themselves. R

  4. Hey Ross, great post. All about celebrating individuality and honoring that we are all unique in the way we approach school and life in general. Working through the process of learning requires us to be very introspective as educators, but also extremely aware of the learning tendencies of our students. Harnessing the powers as you say is very much a part of effective teaching in my opinion. Love the art of reflection and that is exactly what you have shown in this post.

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