How can we help them hear the beautiful music?

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”~ Friedrich Nietzsche


This quote has always held so much meaning for me. It can be so frightening to try something new, creative, and even a little risky, when you can clearly see the judgement on the faces of others who just do not understand.

I was brought back to this idea this week during discussions with coworkers. I feel so lucky that the position I work in is the perfect setting to try strategies that are a little different. That I can welcome my students in through the rabbit hole, and let them know that "we are all a little crazy here." However, the conversations I've had recently make it very apparent that not all teachers feel this is an option for them. In a recent instructional meeting, I had some wonderful discussions with amazing teachers about taking concepts deeper and the power of project-based learning experiences to make this happen. The encouraging result of these conversations, is that the teachers agree. They desperately want to provide experiences that will allow their students to dive deeper, apply skills and processes they have learned in meaningful ways, and connect/collaborate with others. However, I was discouraged by the pressure these teachers feel to improve, not the deep conceptual growth of students, but the growth represented by a number generated on a report. My fear is that, with pressure to only show growth in data, what are our students learning? How to compute? How to spell? How to complete the quadratic formula? Where is the meaningful application? When are these students working collaboratively to develop solutions to global problems? Where is the purpose? Where is the passion? Where is the creation?

So, my question is how, then, do we help these very capable teachers find the courage to take a risk and encourage their students to dance to the music that only they may be able to hear? And how do we help those with the power to release the pressure hear this beautiful music as well? I think the answer may be that we have to start capturing and sharing the powerful things that are happening in our classroom more often. All those things that can't be represented by a number. A video of students collaborating and creating shows growth in a way that a number cannot. A journal reflection allows a student take ownership of their own growth, and express their deep learning in a meaningful way. I encourage teachers to start compiling their own qualitative data, that will allows those who can make an impact to see the pay off when learning becomes creating.

Change begins with us. We can help our students write their own song, and encourage them to dance in spite of those who just can't hear the music. And maybe, eventually, as they see that what we are creating is beautiful, others will begin to hear the music as well.

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