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- 10 Lessons About Teaching from My Youngest Son - June 24, 2021
- Ending the Epithet “Try-Hard” Once and for All in Classrooms - June 18, 2021
- From STEM, Let's Pivot to the BRANCHES of the Humanities - May 25, 2021
- Would Education Collapse If Teachers Stopped Working for Free? - May 20, 2021
- 10 Ways to Teach Like Ted Lasso: Part II - April 21, 2021
- 8 Tips So Your Substitute Plans Don't Suck - April 14, 2021
- 10 Ways to Teach Like Ted Lasso: Part I - March 12, 2021
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teachers: Habit 3 - First Things First - February 26, 2021
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My wife and I just finished our honeymoon tour of Spain, and one place that put me in awe was the Museo Picasso in Barcelona. This collection showcased a completely different side of Picasso than what most are used to, including his incredible talent for classical portraits. He was so talented by the age of 14 that he outgrew even his greatest of teachers and eventually came to hate school.
The young artist soon saw that school was a limit on his parameters, as he’d already mastered realism. He dropped out of school and began experimenting with the bohemian culture and its low-class, on-the-streets lifestyle. He barely lived on sketches he sold in the streets, and so began to slowly move up the economic scale after debuting his first studio at the age of 19. For much of the rest of his young life, Picasso was a lost piece of talent.
That is until he completely reinvented the artistic world. Using the classics from El Greco, Matisse, Velazquez, and others, Picasso began a time of self-instruction to establish himself as a co-founder of cubism. Turning the artistic world completely on its head with his Les Demoiselles d'Avignon in 1907, he took great risks in who he was portraying (5 “ladies of the streets”) and in how he was portraying them (as if they were wearing African masks, and their bodies “blocky,”) but this is what he needed to do. He had already outgrown what was “common” 10 years before.
Teachers can probably identify a student who would meet what we’ll call the “Picasso Theorem”: that formal schooling can no longer help certain children, and in fact hinders them. These students are very rare – much rarer than students and parents alike think they are – but they will eventually appear in each teacher’s class.
Problem is that far too many teachers don’t know how to handle these students. Their behavior is seen as contrarian and problematic. They often find themselves bored, punished for stepping outside of the curriculum, and challenging the teacher are what they find to be the routine and mundane. Teachers can find themselves viewing these students as a contrarian and a threat, and often find themselves at wits end attempting to educate these students in the classical model.
Students like Picasso, however, will continually break this mold.
In my 8 years thus far, I’ve probably met a few students who are like Picasso, but one who absolutely protrudes from my thoughts is a young man I taught in my 2nd year of school. In a government class where I the curriculum consisted of the three branches, voters’ responsibilities, and differences between the political parties, this young man was asking questions about the morality of capital punishment and the irrationality of the federal budget. When I was 23, I met my first 14-year-old Picasso.
I could tell that school was difficult for this young man. Not only did he possess an extreme aptitude for government, his interests in science and literature were unparalleled. In a poverty-stricken, rural school district, it was easy to ascertain that he already had outgrown much of his teachers’ tutelage, including much of mine (and that includes time working for the government, and an incredible aptitude and interest in the topic). In addition, he was also the first openly gay student in the school district, compounding the difficulty of his studies.
I knew from the beginning I had to teach young Picasso here in a different manner. Notes and readings weren’t going to satisfy his quenching thirst for more. Instead of allowing his listless amounts of questions to be seen as bothersome, I (and the class) embraced them. In a time of pre-Common Core instruction, he helped inspire me to construct more meaningful lessons, including a mock presidential contest (where he ran in the primary and lost) and a mock Congress, where he served as Majority Leader and a strong voice for his own politics.
Despite all this, he missed a lot of school. Soon he ended up leaving school. Thankfully there were other options for him, and he enrolled in an online school, graduating in just 3 years.
Today, this young Picasso is studying pre-med and sociology, still devoutly pushing the envelope on social politics. When the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down by the Supreme Court, this young man was there in Washington, DC. In fact, a world-famous photo of him graced the front page of many newspapers of him the next day. Currently he’s in Israel on a study-abroad tour, and his writings are some of the most thought-provoking, well-established words I’ve ever seen in print.
So I ask all the teachers of the world – one day, when you meet your Picasso, what will you do to inspire him (or her)? Your answers will consequently impact this student’s possible love or hate for the education you can provide. In the same token, they will have long-lasting impacts on that child’s future. Lastly, will you be able to one day be able to switch roles? In other words, will you be able to allow yourself to become a student of someone you once taught?
Young Picasso, I’m awaiting your lessons on life. I can’t wait to see how you put the circles into the cubist pegs and produce your own version of Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. I can’t wait to see how your change the world, Mr. Michael Kovich.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]