I am concerned about the overemphasis of team, community, and the theory that “everyone does the same thing in class or project.” On the surface is sounds great, we all work together, learn together, and be a part of a “one” society, much like a symphony or musical group. That is a very 20th century model for the factory workers. In the 20th century you were taught to follow the rules, follow the appointed leader, and do everything together. Be a good trained monkey, that will take you far. That world has changed…
In today’s society, innovative and creative classes and projects must be the standard. In some higher level colleges, it is stressed one must to be creative by having “two” things you excel in. Notice the word “excel,” it is a way to move ahead of others, be an individual thinker and innovator. Being tolerant and being able to WORK with others is important, but pushing the envelope is important as well. Yes, I still do the traditional concerts, but allow talent to shine with soloists. You have to have a balance and let the stars shine.
I have been reading a lot about 21st century skills from well-known authors and philosophers as Seth Godin, Daniel Pink, and Don Tapscott. If you have not heard about them, you are stuck in the 20th century, for they are the movers and shakers of today. In their writings, they talk about independent thinking and being an innovator, which is more important than following the rules.
Anyone that knows me, I see the rules as a skeleton and many times do not follow the rules. Of course this drives many an administrator nuts. I am always ethical and stick to my core beliefs. I do not subscribe to the “group” mentality, but the “star” creation.
This is much a kin to the divergent theories concerning performing groups. One theory is to take the BEST singers in the school for the top performing group. The other theory is to have the singers who sound good together as the top performing group. One fosters excellence of each of the performers, the other is excellence to the whole. The second dumbs down talent to be the same, the other fosters star status.
“The Group,” was a theater company in the 1930’s. It was a collaborative group of actors where no one was allowed to stand out. It was a new way of achieving “the whole” on stage. Katherine Hepburn was asked to take part in “The Group,” After listening to the presentation about “The Group,” Hepburn replied, “This is all very well for you people. But I’m going to be a star, you see.” (Taken from http://thebrittbeat.blogspot.com/2008/06/im-going-to-be-star.html) After ten years, the group disbanded. Who got the last laugh!
That is exactly what I want for my students. To be excited about others successes, but achieve your own excellence and not just be a “star,” but a ROCK STAR!
I do not run a “team” mentality within my classes, but my students still feel like a family. Within a family, one is allowed to share talents, allowed to grow talents, and expand upon talents, not “dumb” down talents so someone doesn’t feel bad.
In the middle schools where students start to realize their passions and talents, it is important to give student the wings to fly, not a rope that ties them to each other. We rarely find our “tribe” within the general population in middle school, but often in clubs or activities before or after school or later in high school or college. Sometimes it takes years to really find our “tribe.” When you are with “your people,” you demand more of yourself and achieve more because your “tribe” expects you to soar. I try to have students of like minds work together.
The students I have taught or are in my classes know that I am a “different” teacher, one who seeks out talent and passion. I ALLOW students to excel, or with some, demanding they excel given their raw talent. I do not accept mediocrity, because I have high standards. For those extremely gifted and talented students, my battle cry is to give them “time and software” to allow their creative process to take over. Then the ROCK STAR appears and all is good in the kingdom.