I had a different blog post planned for this week … but then I heard of the passing of Sir Ken Robinson. My condolences go out to Sir Ken’s family and friends, to those who knew and loved him most. I’m no expert on his life and I’m not here to re-write his bio as a blog, but his importance in my life (and no doubt countless others) is massive.
When I started teaching, the inadequacy and disconnection of the traditional education model and learner experience had been a suddenly opened window of cold-wind realisation that slapped me in the face. Teaching rote-learning to pass tests and exams from a cobwebbed and stale curriculum, the total lack of values and skills based pedagogy, curriculum and assessment, the idea that students should still be ‘put in a box’ with the other similar models, that teaching creativity was limited to the arts, and that sustainability-thinking and how to make our world a better place was something that students might get to later in life – all this and more weighed heavily on my soul.
I loved being a teacher – right from the start – and I still do. More and more each day. I knew I wouldn’t be able to tow the Education company line – so I didn’t. I designed and taught integrated, real-world, sustainability-based thematics. I brought fun, music, art, games, and magic into my Maths and Science classes. My teaching impacted a very small ripple-effected group – I doubt anyone anywhere knew of it. But my students loved it – and so did I.
There were times that I doubted my ideas … what did I know anyway? Then I watched Sir Ken’s TED talk(s). Here was a person, smarter than me, more eloquent, more experienced and knowledgeable, more funny – and he was saying what I was thinking. More importantly, the problems with education that he outlined were my exact observations – and I was trying to solve those problems. I remember the sense of affirmation. I remember the email I sent to faculty (I was in the leadership group – so I felt justified to do so). I remember the motivation stimulus that power-boosted me to think bigger than my little one-man education revolution and to look for ways to have more impact, to work with larger groups of education revolutionaries, to be a part of a global community that aligned itself with the ideas and the practices of changing the very essence of what a school is and what a school does. Hello Green School Bali!
Answering Sir Ken’s provacative TED-talk question: Yes – schools kill creativity. But, unfortunately, schools were killing so much more: the connection people need to make with nature, that learning was fun, meaningful, and relevant to ALL people, that Maths was an art, that Science was magic, that literature had a special placeholder of happiness for everyone, that music wasn’t just for musicians, that student-learning was only something that happened between teachers and students … and so much more. That video is now 16 years old – and things are changing. Just take a look at Green School and all the other innovative new school models.
We will miss Sir Ken – but his legacy lives on. And it must. The awakening of the minds of students, parents, educators and administrators can not be un-done. Education revolutionaries all around the world will forever ride on the impetus of change that he has created. For some it might be: “Imagination is the source of all human achievement” (Sir Ken Robinson). For others: “There’s a wealth of talent that lies in all of us” (Sir Ken Robinson). But for me, when I need a power-boost, I remember Sir Ken’s words: “For most of us the problem isn’t that we aim too high and fail. It’s just the opposite: we aim too low and succeed”.
Rest in peace, Sir Ken – and rest with knowledge that we will carry on the ‘high-aiming’ education revolution that this planet needs.