Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Time for passions

A student said something yesterday that really struck me and may seem off topic at first, but stick with me for a bit. Rachel, a junior in high school who is making a documentary as an extension to a research paper, and purely for her own enjoyment, said that it was really hard to find time to work on it, because she had so many other things she HAD to do. Her parents want to make sure she keeps up with the parts of her school work that are graded and therefore "count." She has to start thinking about college visits. She has exams and final projects to prepare. The documentary, although it is the thing she cares about most and is incredibly meaningful and pleasurable to work on, comes last and therefore often doesn't get worked on for days at a time. As I was listening, I thought, well, that's me. I know that making art makes me happy, but why does it always come last in my life, so often that I haven't made any for months? Rachel met with her teacher to talk about it and her teacher suggested that she schedule blocks of time into her days that would be documentary work time. And I thought, why don't I do that?

When I first graduated from college, where I was a studio art major, I remember feeling like I'd fallen into a void. There was no one telling me I had to make art, and no one giving me assignments. I felt lost. I knew and still know that creating things makes me happy, helps me work through stuff in my life and is just plain good for my state of mind, but it always got pushed to the last thing and then there wasn't time. Eventually you lose the habit of making. Well, I think Rachel had provided me with an answer. I have to schedule time-real blocks of time-in my google calendar with a reminder programed into my phone.

And, I thought, what a great life-lesson this is. Rachel has found something that she is passionate about, but by grappling with this issue now, she will know what to do when she leaves school and suddenly doesn't have anyone telling her what to do and when to do it. She will simply schedule it into her day. It seems so simple. Why then, has it taken me 53 years to get this?

I know that I'm not the only one who has felt that loss after graduation. My own daughter has talked about it. If innovation education is about teaching habits of mind, then this is one habit that needs to be taught. Find out what you are passionate about. Then, find a way to do it. And if it doesn't fit into your work day-if you are not lucky enough to make money making art, or documentaries, for example-then schedule that time in there. Our students are so used to being programmed every second of every day from early childhood on, that when they graduate it can be daunting. Faced with that void looming ahead, many are anxious about what they will do. If they have discovered something that makes them happy and they know how to create time for it, then this structure will stay with them through their life and sustain them through the rough times.