There is a duel inside my head. One one side, there is creativity. Always searching for fresh, new and craving color like it’s an addictive candy. On the other? Perfectionism. The two do not get along well. It’s like an old western, like this scene from a movie.
It’s paralyzing. It’s wanting to move, to win, to get the shot. But it’s also holding back, because one false move and you go down. Perfectionism is the enemy of creativity.
Sure, it can be said that seeking perfect pushes you farther, trying to achieve unattainable goals because there is no other way. But, I’m ready for creativity to win the duel, even if I’m grazed by failure. If we only create what we are sure will turn out perfectly, we are probably only creating about 1% of our ideas. Seems like a low figure? Seems accurate. A lot of things left unsaid, unimagined, uncreated.
Creativity has to be about iteration. Iteration cannot be about perfection. There is no room it all. I’ve always felt that making is truly a cure for perfectionism. A sure shot to achieve exactly what your mind and heart sets out to. Because it’s just authentic, raw, and all you, mixed in with what you draw from the world around you. A good creation comes from your soul and for it to really happen, there can be no holding back. None.
Cue the music. My creativity is looking perfectionism in the eye.
It’s been two months since I’ve wanted to blog. It’s also been just over two months since I lost my Dad. The irony of it all is that one day before he passed away, I wrote “Hands up,” in honor of turning 40. And I thought I had life all figured out. Then, just about 24 hours later, I sat in a hospital waiting room, staring down at my yellow converse, and feeling like the smallest person in the universe. Helpless. He was gone and there was a hole in my heart bigger than anything I’d ever known.
If I look back in my life I see my dad painting a larger than life giant Smurfette on my wall when I was six. I see him building me a tv stand out of a metal trash can when I decided to make my bedroom look “industrial” at 13. I can also hear the sound of his tools hitting the ground as relentless disease hammered away his ability to hold them in his hands and do what he loved. But in that sound, I never heard frustration. Only optimism. He somehow always worked through whatever it was, picked the tool back up, or figured out another way. His outlook is something that I will forever look up to like I’m still nine years old.
So for two months, I haven’t written. Not trying to forget, but trying not to think about how final it all was. That night was so final. Final. It was and still is like hearing the tool drop on the garage floor. Knowing the ding means something bigger than you can comprehend. In the same way that he taught me lessons when he probably didn’t even realize I was paying attention, I thought about how he always handled everything with a sense of laughter and persistence, a sense of creative optimism that I can’t even explain. But I know it, because it feels like an old familiar warm blanket. Wrapped in love. And that is the very thing that I will continue to try to be good at in my life, because in that small way, he will never truly be gone.
In about ten days, I’m turning 40. I’m not sharing this so that you’ll send me birthday cards or ginormous bouquets of flowers. I’m sharing this because it’s liberating. Like, how did I get here? I’ve always wondered what “Over the Hill” means or is – I surely never imagined I’d actually be here. I get it now. I’m here, in it. I can see the hill and the coaster is about to crest. It’s the moments we wait for, the part where we put our hands up and scream, “Let go.”
The reality is, as the track has been clicking toward the top, I’ve been gripping the bar and bracing myself to prepare. And probably missed some good moments along the way. I won’t make that mistake any longer.
I spent years polishing presentations with messages that didn’t truly matter to me. Sharing about learning tools that I knew how to use and enjoyed, but not that WERE my joy. I’ve always loved learning, but I also love sharing and sharing is more fun when you know the message is one others want to hear.
I poured time into jumping through hoops, collecting achievements like there was going to be some sort of gold star behavior chart on my headstone. *For the record, though morbid, I’m totally okay if my headstone glitters, but not for achievement stars.
I adjusted myself, over and over, to fit. To fit the testing culture. To water down my teaching to fill some niche that was needed by someone somewhere. So that I could feel needed and full. But it only makes you feel more empty in the long run.
I longed to be with people who got me, on a personal and professional level, and understood that my heart and my passion were about making the world better and in the process making myself better… not better than the competition, just better for the dream. Those people? I have and I love them all.
I took some chances, some that didn’t work out. At all. But then they did. They always worked out in the end.
Every click of the track. Polishing my message. Only sharing what I was pleased with. Only creating things I was comfortable with. Throwing away the art I hated – when I should have been hanging those pieces up. Hiding 90 percent of the things I felt like only I would understand. I was shining my ideas with varnish when I should have been scraping and sanding away the things that just don’t matter.
It doesn’t matter if anyone else understands, not everyone ever will.
There are people, around you, that care. Always. Don’t just be ready to support them, but also be ready to let them support you.
I’d rather have 3 seconds of genuine conversation than 8 hours of pre-packaged promotional blah.
When I say a “makerspace in a box” that I see for sale, “kills a part of my soul,” people chuckle. But I’m not joking. It literally makes a little part of my heart whimper with “ick.” An ick that takes me RIGHT back to elementary school when I felt the same way. And I’m 95% sure that as I crest the top of the hill and put my hands up, I’ll continue to understand that listening to those little inside voices is what it’s all about.
The lightheartedness in which I write this seriousness? It’s me. I miss my grandparents, all of whom I just lost within the past 4 years. I hate seeing the vice of incurable and devastating chronic illness squeeze on my parents, but at the same time, they continue to smile and live life, because in that respect, there is no choice. These things are all daily, second by second reminders that the clock ticks regularly and that we don’t get second chances. Sobering, but liberating to remember.
And I guess, that’s what happens at the top of the hill. You throw your hands up and let go. Well, there are also wrinkles, old age pain conversations with my husband, and raising a teenager… but for this moment, today, I’m just going to enjoy this ride.
It’s been a great couple of days. Stepping away from our learning space, to a different learning space at SxSWEdu. Participating in a panel with people who inspire me (Thanks Manuel and Rebecca for the true honor of sitting with you all!) . And one line that I keep thinking about, “Nobody owns making in your school. Nobody can. And that’s what makes it great.” I keep going back to. I think six thousand things a day that I never share or act on. But this one ? I keep going back to it. In our schools, there are experts that “own math,” and “own social studies.” Owning their subjects like we own cars and houses. I despise the term “edu-rockstar” and when people talk Twitter follower counts, I’d rather climb under a table and hide. But, a conversation with another educator who share a passion for the magic in the classroom? I can never, ever get enough of that. Making just can’t be reduced to one person or thing. It’s built on the work of great people like Gary Stager, Sylvia Martinez, Seymour Papert… and many more.
The idea that we don’t have classrooms with a sage on the stage anymore is not new. But, it’s still taking so much, too much time, to catch on. Because we go to conferences where too many are still, well, the sage on the stage. Being the sage or being IN it. Daily. Up to your nose in cardboard and covered in alligator clip wires, and loving it. There’s too much of one person being the golden apple of the “thing” and the buzzwords. The buzzwords.
You know that scene in Dirty Dancing where Baby gets put into a corner. That’s how I feel about making. You cannot put making in a corner. You just can’t. You can’t reduce all that is beautiful about raw human creativity into a pile of buzzwords and things. The energy people have when their genuine excitement of kids creating and making the world better is almost indescribable, uncategorizable, and unsellable, non-packageable. It’s made from a variety of passions, things, and mixes. It’s not processed. It can’t be because the mix is exactly the thing that makes it what it is. It’s as authentic as authentic gets.
We are not apples. Apples only produce more apples. We are a fruit salad. Bananas. Pears. Oranges. Grapefruit. Hybrid mixes of yet to be invented Pineoranges. A beautiful, colorful mix of unmatchable joy. You are the Scratch guy? Great. You’re the edu-startup girl? Awesome. You’re the one who wrote the book on design thinking? I want to hear about it and mostly hear how your fiasco in your classroom turned out to be amazing because you hung in there. Because no matter WHAT you are passionate about, if it’s promoting learning and empowering a kid or another teacher to change the world, I’m there.
Just don’t feed me processed applesauce. And don’t you dare put making in the corner.
One mission I have when teaching young children is helping them understand the different type of image files and discussions about file extensions. The topics of .gif and .jpeg lead to great discussion about animated vs. non-animated images. File extensions can help students think about different programs and what type of files are needed or created. Understanding image resolution helps them create higher quality media that doesn’t contain pixelated images.
Edit bits of code in the image. Copy/paste. Delete characters. Be experimental. There is no guide.
Change the extension back to a JPEG.
Open your photo to view the results.
I love that this simple and quick activity also reinforces the idea that images are made of code. Seeing how every single characters together in hundreds of lines creates the picture. Pretty cool!
Photo edits could become framed works of art. Backgrounds for poetry. Parts of a student made book. The possibilities are endless.
I decided to try it out with a photo from a spring break visit to Austin. A red poppy. After the text code edits? It’s a glitchy photograph that is a whole new way to view a poppy. It’s messy, unpredictable, and a work of art. It’s all about the process of the code lines coming together. Just like learning.
I like to share. I love to learn. Creating stuff is one of my basic needs in life. Sharpie hoarder. Pen collector. Wife. Mom. Innovator. Educator. Dog lover. Dreamer. Blogging just so my head doesn't explode.
The Launch Pad Virtual Tour
Currently an Innovation Coordinator at The Kinkaid School. I get to play, innovate, and support teachers and kids in learning. Know that saying, "Do what you love"? Yep.