You may have heard “Familiarity breeds contempt,” but what about “Desperation breeds creativity?” When things aren’t working in our classrooms, we teachers tend to panic—or worse forge ahead with poor results. So what should we do in these situations?
It’s been my experience that when I’m in a tough teaching situation, I often get a whim. Whim is related to the words whimsical and whimsy and implies playfulness, but in the moment, it often seems less like play and more like a desperate tactic for survival. Circumstances are forcing us to be creative, and, fortunately, creativity is often the solution to the problem. Creativity allows us to see new solutions, try new things, and ultimately, achieve new results. Students crave classroom creativity as much as we do.
This is why I encourage you to act on your whims. My greatest teaching breakthrough came from such a whim. Since the typical teaching tactics were failing, I tried something new. I went home defeated, but I had a whim. I acted on it, regrouped, and returned the next day with a new solution. In my mind, there were many reasons my whim would not work—that it would be a waste of an evening and a colossal failure. But just the opposite happened. It was a success—a breakthrough—one that has fueled my teaching ever since. Over the years, I’ve learned not to listen to that voice of pessimism. More often than not, the opposite of what it says is true. So when you hear it, flip it. You can do it. Your idea will succeed.
Have the courage to act on your whims. They come to you for a reason. There is a chance a whim might not work, but there is an even greater chance it will. And whims can turn into game changers.