Thoughts on Art, Creativity, and Legacy

I’m not the type who gets super-emotional about the death of famous people I’ve never known. I didn’t cry at the death of David Bowie or Alan Rickman.

And yet, I’m thinking of David Bowie and the absolute permission to be weird. There were so many Bowie songs I never got and probably never will. I’ll never really connect with anything New Wave. But that permission to be strange was so vital and somehow Bowie’s music was the best place for me to discover that. I get it. Bowie was deeply flawed. But I loved – absolutely loved – the way he talked about art and identity and the permission to be odd. I connected with those ideas when I was 13 and I connect with them now at 35.

Be wildly and unabashedly different.

I’m thinking about the death of Glenn Frey right now and I’m flooded with memories of my dad playing the acoustic guitar on our living room shag carpet as we sang “New Kid in Town” and “Take It Easy” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling.” I’m struck by the power of an artist in the way they can not only step inside someone else’s world but also create memories that will stick with another person forever.

So, there’s this deeply humbling realization of art and creativity and legacy. I’m struck by the idea that there are things you believe to your core that you can’t explain in a tweet or a blog post. They have to come out in a story or a song. And sometimes you don’t see the impact of those words, but that doesn’t become any less powerful.

One of the highlights of last year was getting the chance to read the last chapter of Wendell the World’s Worst Wizard to a group of students and to realize that they had spent weeks living inside a story I had crafted. It was humbling and powerful and amazing. I never want to forget that.

So, it has me thinking about the classroom. We use terms like “team-building” and “classroom community.” But, on some level, we are authors engaging in world-building. We are poets reflecting truth and expanding worldviews. We are artists provoking thoughts and asking questions.

We are musicians in a never-ending jam session, trying to draw out the creative potential of each student. We are David Bowie giving students the permission to be different. Last night, I taught a class with pre-service teachers who are brand new in the program. It felt like a jam session and it was cool to watch future teachers find their voice.

And, just like any other artist, we, as teachers, have this humbling opportunity to enter into our students’ lives and be a powerful part of each student’s story.

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