When I was in school in the 90’s I was always worried about getting picked. Worried I wouldn’t know the answer in class or even worse, that I would embarrass myself with my silly answer. In sports I was the opposite, I tried so hard and hoped that the coach would pick me to play on the team, or pick me to substitute a teammate and come in and play. I just wanted to be good enough to play and be out there. Those two separate situations defined my youth, and affected how I behaved and how I chose to live my teenage years, by waiting for acceptance and permission. When it was time to go to college, I hoped to get picked once again. What an exhausting, stressful and unrewarding process it was. Everything I did was so I could either get picked or avoid getting picked, but when I finally reached college without any idea what I wanted to do with my life or who I wanted to be I finally stopped worrying about it. I didn’t know it at the time, but four years later when I graduated I was content with finally the realization that it was up to me now, that instead of waiting for gatekeepers, teachers, coaches, bosses and administrators to accept, pick, select, hire or give me permission I’d just do it my way. It wasn’t a conscious decision at the time but it progressively took shape and looking back I wonder what if I had managed the courage to do it earlier?
The gatekeepers hold the keys to many doors. Our students are brainwashed from a very early age to believe that the only way to make it, is to get picked. If you’re not called on by your teacher than you don’t speak, if you’re not selected you can’t take part, if you’re not picked than you can’t attend the class, the school, the team, the club. Our students think this is the only way, follow the path the others have taken, and produce results in order to be accepted and offered a job or a position in a company. Keep practicing, keep working, do more exercises, and then repeat and repeat again. Is that really what we should be striving for? Is it really what we want our students to do?
How about taking our own path, go our own way. We can create our own team, club, company, or even job. When I was growing up the gatekeepers were everywhere and they had the power, but now with the internet we can publish, we can record and we can produce and just press upload! We can create an audience and we can start a movement through the work that we believe in and are passionate about. The internet has given us the gift that any one of us can speak, write and make whatever we want and share it with the world. That’s amazing and worth it. You just have to take that leap of faith and ignore the critics because when you go it alone people are not going to support you at the beginning, because they are scared, and they expect you to be scared too. But you shouldn’t be, because you are picking yourself, not waiting for the gatekeepers to accept you and not doing what others have already done. Of course, it’s just one step. It’s a journey, an adventure and this mentality has ups and downs, doubts and critics. It’s just an idea but requires work and probably that’s what is also scary for many too. But what is the alternative? At least when looking back you can say you did it, you tried. There can’t be any regrets with that.
As teachers we can encourage our students to do the same. Let them speak freely, ask them to brainstorm and come up with fresh ideas and not be afraid to go out of their comfort zone and think out of the box. Accept and nurture this type of environment in your classroom. We have lots of tools now like Padlet, podcast publishers (Anchor), and artistic apps(Aviary, Blendamaze,Doodle art ) that allow our students to work collaboratively and freely. Don’t wait to get picked. Pick yourself and get on your way.