Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Great Teachers are Already Masters of Inception

If you haven’t seen Inception, I won’t spoil it for you, but it revolves around a simple question: Is it possible to place an idea in someone’s head, so that they believe they came up with it themselves?  This process is called inception.

In the film’s opening moments, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character explains that an idea is more powerful and virulent than the nastiest virus—once it’s in your head, it’s almost impossible to get out. True enough. Yet all the characters also work off the premise that inception is difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish. I disagree: great teachers master this skill and use it from the first day of school.

It's no secret that good teachers work to make the transition from providing information to providing the opportunity for students to learn on their own.  When teachers become facilitators, that's when students start learning amazing things.  That's inception.

Inception also happens when teachers set out clear expectations on the first day of school and model them consistently throughout the year.  Now you might say, "but that's not the same thing.  You're planting the idea and eventually they just following along."  With certain things, you're right.  If you tell them they should do something because you as the teacher think it's important, some students will follow suit.  But make no mistake: no student will ever buy in completely if you straight up tell them something.  At the risk of sounding too existential, a lot of it is just about being there.

I'm a believer that who you are as a person can make all the difference in what will happen in your classroom in a given year.  Students observe you and other and ultimately make their own decision.  If you lead them down a path to success without really trying, just by being there, that's also inception.

So teachers, I challenge you: can you get deep enough inside your students' minds to plant a good idea?  I think you can.