Ken Robinson’s The Element

I can’t remember exactly when I was introduced to Sir Ken Robinson, although I am rather sure it was after 2016 via his TED Talk on Youtube, which I happen to believe is slightly better than this book. I had a lightbulb moment where I went: Aha! I found a credible resource that says so much about education that’s been in my head. Sir Robinson’s ideas were super helpful during the part of my English M.A. program when we focused on teaching pedagogies. It made a lot click in place. It took me way back to being in fourth grade and being the little nerdy overachiever with writing; our teacher gave us an essay to write, and I doubled the page count required. Granted, it was wide ruled pages not college ruled, but that was still a feat for a fourth grader. Why did I write so much extra? I got really into The Great Wall of China with those National Geographic magazines. Don’t judge me.

“They and other people you’ll ever meet in this book have identified the sweat spot for themselves. They have discovered their Element – the place where the things you love to do and the things that you are good at come together” (8).

Sir Ken Robinson says, “Never underestimate the vital importance of finding early in life the work that for you is play. This turns possible underachievers into happy warriors” (7). It happens very naturally. One caveat that I like to point out is that it requires fostering and encouragement from those around us. Teachers are a great source of this in my opinion. Where do we often go wrong? Typically, its the administration and parents that get in the way. I’m not even going to go into the innumerable ways in which the systemic issues that kill creativity are perpetuated over and over again. Sir Robinson does that really well in The Element. Facilitating the innate abilities of our youth should be the foundation of education rather than subjecting students to a standard K-12 processing line. Especially important are the first five years of a child’s life, hence The First Five Years Movement.

“The Element is the meeting point between natural aptitude and personal passion” (21).

So much to say so little time! Sir Robinson is so right when he says that, if we don’t find it in youth, we may discover or rediscover it later on in life, and it feels like an epiphany. But, it’s not a guarantee. He breaks The Element down into features and conditions; the features are aptitude and passion, while the conditions are attitude and opportunity. As I was reading, I was reminded of a quote that I heard during an interview with Eva Longoria. She gave a great explanation of what success meant for her, and it has stuck with me ever since. Eva said something like: success is just preparation meets opportunity; preparation is doing the things that you think are needed to be able to do the thing you want to do (aptitude), and opportunity is cultivated, meaning that you consciously put yourself out there in situations where you’ll bump into people that will take note your aptitude. Sir Ken Robinson just backs her up with science, developmental psychology, etc.

“They find that their time passes differently and that they are more alive, more centered, and more vibrant than at any other time” (21).

This last Sunday I kept thinking: And, on the seventh day he rested. But, there I was at the closest Starbucks keeping myself entertained with editing my next writing project, not part of Read House Review, which is only a hobby for me. It did not feel like work. I now recognize when I go into The Zone as Sir Robinson calls it. And, I can do it at will now rather than wait for it to spontaneously happen for me. It doesn’t mean that it always happens without hiccups or frustrations; those are just part of the beautiful chaos of creation. “People who work creatively usually have something in common: they love the media they work with” (73). Some people say love while others say obsessed. PotAto POtato. Same thing in our literary world. I can’t remember who said: The masters of their craft are always more than a little obsessed. Ugh, I feel that. It’s too bad it landed Paulo Coelho in a psychiatric institution multiple times because his parents just did not get it. But, this is why the best poets – from Shakespeare to Edgar Allan Poe – always speak of madness. The world’s wonders and mysteries rest in a handful of words. Who needs friends when you have books? Who needs enemies when you have punctuation! Anyway, I’m gonna go buy my next Paulo Coelho book just to get back at his parents. The bastards! How dare they.

Works Cited

Robinson, Ken. The Element. New York, New York: The Penguin Group, 2009. Print.

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