Last week, in celebration of Dr. Seuss’ birthday, our class read his book, Oh the Thinks You can Think. It’s a great book about unleashing your imagination and the unlimited possibilities that are all there in your mind. What’s even greater is the story of Dr. Seuss’ persistance (and luck) in publishing his first book which I first learned from a book a colleague gave me titled, Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned from a Children’s Book written by Anita Silvey. I was reminded of Dr. Seuss’ story on her blog: Children’s Book-A-Day.
This weekend, I finished reading Poke the Box, by Seth Godin which is a book about taking initiative. It’s a book that basically says you have to do more than simply think thinks. It says you have to ship your product. It’s simple message reminded me more of P.D. Eastman’s book, Go Dog Go! which sums up the message nicely: Go! In Eastman’s book, he also shows that by putting yourself out there, you have a pretty big chance of being criticized and failing. If you don’t takes those risks, however, you won’t succeed.
“Do you like my hat?” says one dog to another throughout the book.
“I do not!” replies the other dog. This doesn’t stop the dog who asked the question from redesigning her hat over and over again. She takes the initiative to keep innovating. By the end of the book, he likes her hat. So Silvey is right. Everything you need to know, you can learn from a children’s book.
What prevents a lot of us from taking initiative? According to Godin: the fear of failing is one part of it. As educators, we want to instill the value of failing to learn in our kids. How can we do this without being risk takers ourselves? We can’t be completely foolish, or course, but as Godin puts it, we can’t wait for permission either.
TED talks are all about people who take initiative. The TED 2011 conference took place last week. While I look forward to learning about some of this year’s ideas when this year’s talks get posted, there are many talks being given in a TED movement called TEDx. These are independently organized events for those who think they have ‘ideas worth spreading.’ TEDxNYED took place yesterday featuring a diverse group of speakers. Its theme was: Empowering Innovation in Education. You could stream the all-day event live or view some of it later. There were a lot of calls to transform education using technology to engage the learner. The views varied among the speakers I watched, but one thing they all seemed to be saying resonated with me having read Godin’s book: We need to engage our kids to take initiative, and to do that, we have to do so ourselves. There were a lot of people who suggested a flaw in the TEDx talks saying that they were all lectures. Godin would say to those people, start your own TED talk and make it more interactive. Don’t wait for someone else to make it happen.
Our school’s values statement includes: “We foster resilience and expect all to search and find, to fail and learn, to risk and succeed in a changing world.” According to Godin, taking initiative is an intentional act. We can schedule it. In fact, we’re trying this at our school. Wednesday March 23, after school, our faculty are all going to “start something.” Whatever that something is, I’m excited to find out what they did that afternoon. Poke The Box is a quick and good read.
I’ll end with this quote taken from Daniel Pink’s (author of Drive and a Whole New Mind) review of Poke the Box:
“Indeed, the message of this book is so profoundly simple and so simply profound, I can encapsulate it in a single word.
Don’t cogitate. Don’t ruminate. Don’t plan on getting started or wait for permission to begin.