Inspiration is a call to action for Tahoma teacher | An Education project


For the Reporter

Stepping off the train after a day trekking around my favorite village in England, I began the long walk back home. Shortly after leaving the station I would always pass by a wooden wall, which stood about eight feet tall and ran the length of a football field, hiding a vacant lot of dirt and weeds.

It was used as an open and legal graffiti canvas. Whether it was a flashback to my own days as a teenager hanging out under the overpasses or the constant change in graffiti murals, my eyes always scanned the different pieces of art. If I slowed down, my wife would roll her eyes and continue walking. Today however, being alone, I literally stopped.

Not only was there a new piece of art to admire but also the artist was actually in the process of creating. Immediately, I was hooked. The one thing about an artist is that most of them don’t mind if you watch as long as you stand at a distance and let them get on with the art. And so, I ended up standing at a distance for nearly fifteen minutes. It isn’t that I feel the art of graffiti is necessarily captivating, though I remember the rush, rather I find myself enjoying the opportunity to experience the ideas, mistakes and epiphanies in real time.

After 15 minutes the artist waved me over and we enjoyed a wee little chat — his accent was a bit thick, but I managed. We talked about the intricate details of his piece and the fact that he used more than 100 Sharpies to cover nearly 200 square feet of that wooden wall. It was as if I could see the mechanisms of the detailed machines truly moving. At that moment I was inspired. I went home, plugged into my ipod then drew on a sheet of printer paper for the next two hours.It is fascinating how inspiration can invigorate the mind to spring into action.

Martin Luther King Jr. had Mohandas Gandhi while George Clooney has politics. Although many people probably won’t find inspiration from a GAP sign made from yarn like I did several months back, I know many people will relate to being intrigued, perplexed even inspired by someone’s words. Whether spoken in a staff meeting or fumbled over in a presidential debate, read in TIME magazine or glanced at on the endless news ticker on a cable news channel, we are all affected by words.

Below are a handful of excerpts from various pieces of writings I have found interesting, inspiring, motivating, but all else thought provoking:

Bryan Walsh’s article "The Upside of Being an Introvert, and Why Extroverts are Overrated":

Simply being an introvert can also feel taxing – especially in America, land of the loud and home of the talkative. From classrooms built around group learning to open-plan offices that encourage endless meetings, it sometimes seems that the quality of your work has less value than the volume of your voice. In schools, it’s the bolder kids who get attention from teachers, while quiet children can too easily languish in the back of the classroom.

“Our culture expects people to be outgoing and sociable…”Rick Steves’ book, "Travel as a Political Act":

I fondly remember the confusion I felt when I first met someone who wouldn't trade passports with me. I thought, “I've got more wealth, more freedom, more opportunity than you'll ever have—why wouldn't you want what I've got?” I assumed anyone with half a brain would aspire to the American Dream. But the vast majority of non-Americans don't. They have the Bulgarian Dream, or the Sri Lankan Dream, or the Moroccan Dream. Thanks to travel, this no longer surprises me. In fact, I celebrate it.

Fareed Zakaria’s commentary, "When Will We Learn?":

I went through the Asian educational system, which is now so admired. It gave me an impressive base of knowledge and taught me how to study hard and fast. But when I got to the U.S. for college, I found that it had not trained me that well to think.

American education at its best teaches you how to solve problems, truly understand the material, question authority, think for yourself and be creative.

It teaches you to learn what you love and to love learning. These are incredibly important values, and they are why the U.S. has been able to maintain an edge in creative industries and innovation in general.The connections I have made to these excerpts naturally linked with teaching and learning, but inspiration is a funny thing: we are all free to do with it as we choose.

The graffiti artist I watched outside the Brighton train station created a detailed masterpiece of sorts that took weeks to complete — which ironically would be spray-painted over in only one weeks’ time. But admiring the work in progress for those fifteen minutes was all it would take to catapult me to pick up a pencil.

A similar feeling occurred when I read the articles, commentaries and book excerpts listed above. The question you need to ask yourself is whether or not you will consider acting upon an inspiration that might have an impact on your community.

To that end, An Education invites community members to write a one-paragraph commentary on how a particular person has somehow inspired you to think or act in one way or another, maybe even motivated you into action.

What did that person do that made you think?

How were you motivated to act?

Who inspired you?

Participate.Visit or email

Jordan Barnett at Jordan Barnett is an Enumclaw resident and teacher in the Tahoma School District.



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