Everything I’m writing is s#*%


Greetings Starfighters,

Happy first (partial) week of spring here in the Northern Hemisphere—our southern neighbors rejoice as they head into my favorite time of year…

I’ve walked around most of this week not knowing what day it was or just being off a day. I’m quite certain this is all due to still recovering from the nonsense of daylight savings time (because we’re not saving anything). Yet, we move along into the vast unknown of tomorrow.

Also, has anyone else adjusted their reading goal for the year? I’m really behind and am not sure I can catch up with all that life brings my way. But, recognizing your limits is key and knowing that the only person I’m competing against is myself is also helpful when I feel defeated.

Anyway, here are 10 cool things I wanted to share this week:

10 Things Worth Sharing

  1. Creativity is Humanity
  2. As usual, I’ve gone down another musical rabbit hole that began with finding the amazing Hermanos Gutiérrez and has taken me into some very chill musical vibes. If you need a nice smooth start to your day, I have some great finds for you.
  3. English learners stopped coming to class during the pandemic. One group is tackling the problem by helping their parents.
  4. I’m always on the hunt for new creatives and curious to see their creative processes. This week, I found Jacob Collier by way of Matt Mullenweg of WordPress fame. Collier joins Paul Davids in this video to discuss learning to play the guitar, tweaking the rules, and changing everything to suit your style.
  5. In Star Wars news this week (you knew there was going to be a geeky moment soon), the trailer for the new “The Acolyte” series dropped this week, giving us a first glimpse at the time 100 years prior to anything Star Wars-related we’ve seen on any screen. There’s even a Wookiee Jedi.
  6. How do US teachers teach? We don’t know, and it’s difficult to figure out.
  7. While I’m a huge fan of exploration and creative work that sometimes takes us on grand adventures that aren’t so productive, sometimes there is no other option than to do the work of learning.
  8. Ten books from MIT faculty to expand your knowledge of teaching, learning, and technology
  9. Speaking of doing the work of learning and creativity, what if you made your classroom or workspace a living display of your creativity like Lynda Barry?
  10. Lastly, when you feel like the work you do is complete and utter garbage—don’t we all get that way at times?—remember that you’re not alone. The novelist Percival Everett says, “I’m pretty sure everything I’m writing is shit…I’m just trying to make the best shit I can.

That’s it for this week. The Spring Break edition will arrive in your inbox next week.

P.S. – I’m going through all my old comics lately and am amazed at some of the ads. Here’s this one with a cameo from Vincent Price to make your own shrunken head…

shrunken head ad from a comic

The Eclectic Educator is a free resource for all who are passionate about education and creativity. If you enjoy the content and want to support the newsletter, consider becoming a paid subscriber. Your support helps keep the insights and inspiration coming!

Change Everything to What Suits You

person playing brown guitar
Photo by 42 North on Pexels.com

The more you dive into creative work, the more creative you are. It’s like building a muscle.

Keep flexing that muscle, and it will grow until you reach a plateau, causing you to search for a new challenge. Creating is no different; you’re just flexing different muscles.

Musicians know this, as they can see the direct result of hours of focused practice months later in new skills and abilities on their instrument, or perhaps even on a new instrument.

Enter Jacob Collier.

Collier, who experienced viral stardom through his YouTube channel in the early 2010s, now regularly collaborates with some of the biggest names in the music industry.

At some point, he decided to pick up the guitar and transfer his piano skills to a new instrument. When he did, something interesting happened.

In this video with Paul Davids, Collier describes learning to play on his first guitar, which had only four strings, like a mandolin. Because of his love of tight harmonies, Collier eventually spoke with Taylor Guitars to craft a 5-string guitar rather than the typical 6-string layout.

The results? Something utterly new and beautiful. But, Collier admits that he doesn’t think of himself as a guitar player because he doesn’t play like a trained guitar player.

“I couldn’t play the guitar, but I would imagine playing the guitar,” Collier notes as he explains his learning process. He admits that he doesn’t follow many of the guitar-playing rules.

Davids, the host and an accomplished guitar player himself tells Collier, “If you don’t like a rule, tweak it… change everything to what suits you.”

If we could grasp that statement and put it into practice with our students, I think we’d see some amazing things come out of our schools. How often do we ask our students (and ourselves) to do things that don’t fit naturally with how we think, act, or create? Why do we continually try to force everything in education to fit into a box?

Sometimes, we allow “tradition” to dictate our work far too much. Remember, tradition is just peer pressure from dead people.

On Not Knowing the Way But Doing It Anyway

Collier talks about hanging with Joni Mitchell–yes, that Joni Mitchell–and watching her play guitar. She plays chords she doesn’t know, but her fingers and ears let her find the right ones to play, making something new.

This idea of not really knowing what you’re doing as you create isn’t new and certainly isn’t exclusive to educators trying to change their teaching practice for a different generation of learners.

Paul McCartney, one of the most well-known songwriters in the history of songwriters, said in a 2016 interview:

“There is no sort of point you just think, ‘Okay, now I can do it, I’ll just sit down and do it.’ It’s a little more fluid than that. You talk to people who make records or albums and you always go into the studio thinking, ‘Oh, well I know this! I’ve got a lot of stuff down, you know, I write.’ And then you realize that you’re doing it all over again you’re starting from square one again. You’ve never got it down. It’s this fluid thing, music. I kind of like that. I wouldn’t like to be blasé or think, ‘Oh you know I know how to do this.’ In fact I teach a class at a the Liverpool Institute High School for Boys — I do a little songwriting class with the students — and nearly always the first thing I go in and say [is], ‘I don’t know how to do this. You would think I do, but it’s not one of these things you ever know how to do. You know I can say to you: Select the key. We will now select a rhythm. Now make a melody. Now think of some great words,’ That’s not really the answer.”

Paul McCartney on songwriting

So, fearless educators, if someone like McCartney doesn’t have it figured out yet and still doubts his abilities to write songs, I think we’re doing alright as we face the productive struggle of creating new ways to do things in our schools.

Final Thoughts

I’ve often said that educators must be some of the most creative people on the planet. Every day, we face different situations, needs, and demands as we do our best to prepare students for a future we don’t know.

Maybe we should worry less about getting it all right and feel great about diving into new adventures and figuring it out as we go.

The Eclectic Educator is a free resource for all who are passionate about education and creativity. If you enjoy the content and want to support the newsletter, consider becoming a paid subscriber. Your support helps keep the insights and inspiration coming!