When Ideas Spark

By Deborah Mersino

Be willing to fail. Magic just might happen. When reaching for something grand, failure is always a possibility. That possibility, though, should never derail simmering ideas from having the chance to fully ignite.

Unfortunately, in our society today, people still long for assurances. We want and demand straight lines, correct multiple choice answers, proficient stats, empirical research, and guarantees of success before we dive in, mix it up, get messy, fall down, stand back up, dance around the fire, and create with passion.

We’re afraid of all the things that could go wrong. We forget that bumps are inevitable, dips serve us powerfully, and failure – perhaps even getting burned – is always, always inherent in risk. We forget that if and when we fall down, we may just see situations anew and stumble upon new trajectories. One wrong turn may lead us to novel avenues, fresh thinking. And remarkably, sometimes our first, second, fifteenth or six hundredth try will actually work.

When our children, our students, our colleagues, our teachers, our politicians, our friends and family have an idea, do we immediately respond with, “That sounds fine and dandy, but…” or do we allow the flickering idea to flourish for a bit? Do we throw sand on the embers or add our own sparks of support?

I ask because right now we need idea generators. We need creative solutions. We need risk takers. We need spark plugs. We need you.

So the next time your right brain delights you with an idea, be kind to yourself and nurture the possibilities. All those left-brain, rational considerations will be addressed in due time. The warmth and glow of that initial firestorm, though, will be what gives you the strength and clarity for the long haul. Let’s.all.think.differently.

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6 Responses to “When Ideas Spark”

  1. Krissy says:

    Your post just made me do a cartwheel. Most people applaud. Me, I’m learning to think different. It’s okay to do a cartwheel when you read something you love. Others might start doing it too.

    Thanks for the inspiration today! 🙂

  2. Deborah, thanks for this encouragement for creativity, new ideas and risk taking. I felt understood, validated and yes, encouraged as I read your comments. You obviously ‘get’ what it’s like to be out on the end of a long limb with the wind blowing. Thanks for your urging to hang on through the storm . . . until a new ‘idea storm’ comes along to energize us again!

  3. Peter Lydon says:

    Or even this. There are 4 words I do not allow students to use in my classroom; ‘If’, ‘But’, ‘Can’t’ and ‘Fail’. It’s fun to watch them combine them into one sentence; the other day I had “But what if I can’t fail’. ‘Exactly’, I replied.

    My reasons are that I got fed up with students asking ‘ what if I fail my exam’ etc.

    In truth, there is never a ‘fail’ except when one does nothing.

    You are doing something. You cannot fail.

    There are only lessons. One can set one’s goal – and with the right belief, attitude, focus and determination, a willingness to learn from mistakes (heartily to be encouraged), and willingness to change the path to the goal, to adapt to changing environmental factors, one will get there.

    This is the story of National Gifted Education Awareness Day in Ireland. I hope it will be the story of your new initiative.

  4. Lynn Carey says:

    Highly motivating. I have this poem posted on my wall in the classroom. Truly, it is the parents and teachers job to encourage and accept new ideas and efforts. To do this, a democratic environment is necessary. This means the teacher or parent is not always correct, authority needs to be questioned (us), the students may just be the authority, and control is had by all. For many, letting go of traditional power is threatening. It requires risk of the authority figure as well as the learner. The authority figure is an equal learner who helps facilitate. This paradign shift takes courage and confidence, yet enlightens and frees.

  5. Peter Lydon says:

    Lynn, I think we need to move completely away from any notion that the adult in the room is ‘the teacher’. Classrooms today should not be about teaching but about learning. Teachers may be learners too, but the reason we are there is for the children to learn. We do have to model learning behaviour, but we can do this without allowing the classroom processes to be dependent on how we do what we do.

    In this scenario, it matters not who knows most. What matters is that there are children who need to be challenged to learn. The classroom facilitators job is to design challenges that moves children along a spectrum of skills and knowledge that becomes increasingly difficult over time as the child matures in their learning.

    What I like about this approach is that ability no longer matters. Differentiation occurs automatically. I don’t know if there is any research on this idea – I’m off to find out; but I think we need a whole new language to describe what we would like to see happen in 21st century classrooms. Our current language falls short.

    What is the poem?

  6. The Think Different campaign was a beautiful one filled with such irony. Apple was such a company filled with innovation and risk taking. They wanted their products to be seen as the tools of innovation. And they have always been a prime provider to schools. Yet at the same time that campaign was going on, many research efforts inside of Apple were being shutdown. Why? Because they were running out of money.

    Today, in California, many libraries in schools have been shutdown for the exact same reason. Instead of the creative spark, a more Darwinistic note has been sounded, one for narrowing students field of view, narrowing creative learning in favor of learning the pure facts.

    Many times, we focus on educating the gifted students in spite of this Darwinistic environment, giving them the spark that will lead to new and innovative ideas and a lifelong love of learning. But there is one component left out this equation, one opportunity to teach kids to permanently have that spark, a way to reverse the social Darwinism, a way to teach the kids by doing —

    And that is by having both gifted kids and gifted parents coming together to teach the public what that fearless creative spark is. More than just headlines, it needs to become real to people whose thoughts probably focus mostly on survival in this tough economy. If it can become real to them, then maybe while this economy forces sacrifices to be made, the innovative spark won’t be one of them.

    Besides, can you think of a problem more difficult to solve, one that requires more innovation, one that can teach leadership and firmly cement the idea in a gifted kid’s mind of being the shepherd of humanity, than this problem?

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