I think that The Science Goddess may really be a Muse. She’s inspired another couple of thoughts I want to get out here before they die of loneliness…
Late last night, Chris Lehmann posed the following idea on Twitter: Question on my mind: How can you demand that people to improve if you don’t improve the circumstances of their life / work / etc?
My response: Perhaps “demand” isn’t the right road? Perhaps we inspire or support or model?
CL: I agree completely. So why do we see so little of that in today’s educational landscape? Especially in urban settings?
SG: I think we do model another “reality,” but may be unwilling to accept that many are happy as they are.
If you’ve read her post, you may be feeling some frustration, a twinge of resentment, or even some outright hostility for the education system that seems not to be able to reach all students with the message that they can succeed in life (whatever the definition of success is) if they work hard and persist.
The fact is, most people, and that includes students, have their own agendas. Their desires and schedules for achievement of their personal goals may never be clear to us, but we can still do something important, and that is to, as The Science Goddess mentions above, inspire.
Before you comment about my apparent Pollyanna attitude, let me define “inspire.”
Science teachers know that grasshoppers have spiracles along their bodies. These openings play a big part in breathing for the grasshopper — like, that’s where the air gets into the organism.
The root of “spiracle” is the Latin spiro, a verb that means to breathe. (Can you see where I’m going with this?)
In Latin, the prefix “in” means “in” or “into.” Put the prefix “in” together with “spiro” and you get “inspiro,” to breathe into.
So if we cannot control, coerce, or command success for students, we can breathe into them our desire that they succeed by setting a truly professional example, by making available visions of possibilities, by teaching them well, assessing them accurately, and grading them fairly.
And most importantly, treating them as equals with the respect we’d give to our most revered elders. And that implies that we accept their decision about what to do with our inspiration. 😉
That’s what inspire means to me.