If we want thinking children, we need thinking teachers. This is the premise of my book ‘The Thinking Teacher’, in this series of posts I am sharing some of the key ideas from the book and the thinking behind them.
In this chapter I consider inspiration. So often the first praise that people reach for when they feel like they have had a great learning experience, but how does being inspired relate to actually learning something?
I have to admit I’ve been thinking for a while that we might need to aim for a bit more than inspiration to get meaningful things happening. Being inspired by something feels good; it makes you feel energised, like you have learned something and you are capable of more, of taking the next step and moving on. The trouble is that the effect of being inspired seems to drop off quite quickly, and wears off in a way that is unrelated to any action we may or may not have taken as a result of that initial inspiration. Back we go to twitter or TED.com for another quick hit of inspiration, another dose to make us feel that we can really be as powerful as we thought we were when riding that inspiration peak. The danger is that with such vast amounts of inspiring material only a click (or a touch) away that we get hooked on the inspiration high without ever actually getting on with making the difference it makes us feel like we can.
Ultimately, inspiration is a feeling. It feels good to be revved up and feel like you have the knowledge, ability and confidence to get out and do something, but on its own this is all it does; make us feel good. Learning through online networks such as twitter and blogs has gained significant momentum over the last few years, but like so many things that are strongly compelling there is a danger of getting hooked on the rush of discovery and not actually moving to the action that you felt so inspired to carry out. In many ways it might be more beneficial for that talk, that conference, or that blog post to concentrate on how to do things rather than on creating the feeling that they must be done. Without directions it is all to easy to swipe on to the next dose of inspiration and concentrate on the feeling rather than the doing.
In the spirit of that, what are we to do about all this? My solution is actually to try to cut down on my diet of inspiration. I’m going to stop seeking its cosy glow, and having assimilated more than my share of ‘inspiring’ ideas recently at conferences and online I am setting myself some key actions I need to carry out and objectives I need to achieve. Whenever I find myself feeling like I am inspired I am going to stop for a moment and ask myself; what are the actions here? Is there anything I can really do with this, or is it giving me that false sense of what I might have learned? If there are actions, great, time to get on with them. If there are not then it is just another dose of the intangible glow of inspiration, a glow that isn’t going to make anything happen.
The rosy feeling I am going to aim for from now on is achievement, not inspiration.