Inspired Teaching is rooted in the belief that every student possesses the ability to think critically and solve complex problems.
This philosophy is influenced by decades of insights from working closely with teachers and school leaders, extensive research, and the voices of educational theorists and reformers. Improvisation is an additive art form; building on existing ideas and opening our minds to new ones are foundational to the practice. At Inspired Teaching, we operate with an improvisational mindset, which includes incorporating the work of progressive education leaders into our approach. Below are a few of those who inspire us.
“No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.” – Martha Graham
Equity and High Expectations
Paolo Freire: ‘Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.’
Eric Jensen: The human brain learns when the experience is challenging, complex, and engaging.
Jonathan Kozol: The voices of low income children must be heard and their needs met in any education reform efforts.
Lisa Delpit: “There are times when students, overexposed to worksheets and minimal thinking, resist being pushed to think. It is as if they have reached an agreement with their teachers—don’t ask much of me and I won’t make any problems for you. Thus, the ‘busyness’ of seat work allows for the appearance of the ‘control’ that many schools in poor communities ask of their teachers, whether any learning is occurring or not.”
Emphasis on Social-Emotional Learning and Strong Student-Teacher Relationships
Linda Darling-Hammond: ‘If you want to teach well to very high standards, you have to know the students well, you have to have that relationship that allows you to both challenge them, and adapt what you’re doing for them so that it works.’
Adele Faber: Non-punitive discipline techniques foster cooperation rather than obedience.
Loris Malaguzzi, founder of the Reggio Emilia approach: Young children have much to contribute to their own education and should build critical thinking skills as they help determine school experiences.
Deborah Meier, founder of Central Park East schools in Harlem: School ought to create thoughtful citizens.
Pedro Noguera: There is more than one way to teach poor kids. Successful schools cannot focus on achievement alone, and ignore children’s social and emotional needs as if achievement can be separated from the whole of any person.
Authentic Learning Experiences
Bev Bos, national expert on early childhood learning: The basics of young children is wonder and discovery – ‘Experience is not the best teacher. It’s the only teacher.’
Lucy Calkins, founding director of the Teachers College Writing Project: ‘learning should be purposeful . . . language is used, skills are developed, and information is learned for real purposes.’
John Dewey: Children, and all people, learn by doing, by engaging in authentic experiences in which they make decisions. Education ought to foster young people’s ability to participate in a democracy.
Mem Fox: Author of Reading Magic, Radical Reflections, and many other children’s books. ‘If you want our children to learn how to read anything – let alone to read more diverse or more difficult material – it helps immeasurably if we can give them as much experience of the world as possible.’
Lilian Katz: Project work is critical in the education of young children.
Theodore Sizer: “The best we educational planners can do is to create the conditions for teachers and students to flourish and get out of their way.”
Grant Wiggins: Authentic assessment is the most effective means of measuring student understanding of material.
Howard Gardner: Multiple Intelligences – As educators we should not ask: Is this child intelligent? We should ask instead, how is this child intelligent?
Maria Montessori: Focus on the individuality of each child in respect of his or her needs or talents.
Carol Ann Tomlinson: Teachers can and must differentiate instruction to meet all students’ needs. Approaches such as Differentiated Instruction and Responsive Classroom facilitate student learning.
Lev Vygotsky: Children, and all people, learn best in their zone of proximal development—the area just outside of their comfort zone.
Emphasis on Creativity
Jean Piaget: Children’s curiosity drives their learning, and play is a critical component of learning, especially for young children. Teaching must be appropriate for the developmental stage of the child.
Daniel Pink, Author of A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future: the importance of right brain thinking in educating students to thrive in new economies.
Sir Ken Robinson: “The fact is that given the challenges we face, education doesn’t need to be reformed — it needs to be transformed. The key to this transformation is not to standardize education, but to personalize it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.”
Improvisation, Spontaneity, and Participation
Keith Johnstone: “In a normal education everything is designed to suppress spontaneity, but I wanted to develop it.”
Viola Spolin: “Through spontaneity we are re-formed into ourselves.”
Alan Alda: “Real listening is a willingness to let the other person change you.”