Thursday, December 28, 2017

Teaching Like an Artist - After Four Years

It was the summer of 2013 when I wrote my first Teaching Like an Artist post on another blog. Those were exciting days as I clarified my vision, spread the word and heard from teachers all over the world who were encouraged by my work.

That simplified message quickly developed into "Say inspired to inspire others" and I boiled down the essence of The Way of the Artist to three "not so simple steps:

  • Dream big
  • Do the work to make it real
  • Share it
After four years of embedding this message in my ed-tech conference sessions, my blog posts and my job, I'm still a believer. 

Yes, in 2017 I openly wondered if I was crazy. Still, I know inspiration is what's missing in school and I know those ideas I was discovering are worth repeating. I still used those key ideas word for word in nearly every presentation I made in 2017. I'm always grateful for those insights and the blessing of seeing them connect with teachers.

But if anyone looked at this blog in 2017, they wouldn't know the message still excites me. I wrote only a handful of posts the whole year. And I'm sure even the teachers who work with my each week would think some of the fire has gone out.

 As an important reflection exercise and in case anyone cares to hear it, I wanted to think aloud about some reasons for this.
  • While the truths are vital, the delivery needs an overhaul. I started to see this in early 2016. I gave it everything leading up to a large conference presentation in March that year. It was quite positive, but it didn't catch on as I hoped. It was the best I could do at the one big shot I'd have, but it didn't connect with teachers in a big way. After that, I felt I was knocking on a door that had been closed. Again, the ideas need to be sold, but I haven't found the right package to grab attention.
  • I kept trying some tweaks on the delivery this past year, but admitted by the end of 2017 that most people don't get very excited about being "like an artist". Part of my initial excitement of these ideas was the realization that we're all making art in one way or another. That's a new idea to most people, though, and getting that essential part of the message through takes more than the one to three seconds I'm allowed to grab their attention. By the time I get to the important, practical insights, I've lost them. I might be able to repackage the ideas, but let's face it. The blog is called "Teaching Like an Artist"! It would have to be a complete restart and I haven't had the time or energy to do that.
  • And that's largely because life is steering me in a different direction. Practically speaking, this blog got less attention in the past six months because I've been very busy with an exciting ministry I'm involved with. Just like in the summer of 2013, I had a mini revival in August. It resulted in a bigger leadership role in the worship team at my church. The creative opportunities there and the far more significant results in the lives of the people I serve captivated my attention and energy. The work will not pay the bills, so I'm still working in education. I do still want to solve the problems in school and help as many students as possible, but there's no way around it. My heart has been set on worship. When I first started the Teaching Like an Artist series, I acknowledged right away that God is the great artist. I'm grateful for this latest surprise in His work.
I don't plan on shutting the blog down and I still want to keep the heart of the message in all my work in education. I still get excited when I read  the most popular posts (like this one) or my favorites (like this one). I start to dream big again whenever someone tweets the ideas out at my conference sessions. 

I want to continue the work if it's actually helping. I'm just not sure how to fit that in yet. For now, I'll keep my eyes open for opportunities rather than try to create them.

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