10.30.12 By Malcolm King
If you’ve ever seen Inception, you may be able to imagine how hard it is to understand the process of teaching. For those that haven’t, a little background. Inception is a movie about an expert thief who goes into people’s dreams to steal their most guarded secrets. Supposedly, our thoughts are more vulnerable in our subconscious minds. Usually this master criminal simply takes information, but in his one last job, the antihero attempts to implant rather than extract information. Just as when the clever miscreant had to extrapolate information, he must leave little or no trace of his intrusion for the vulnerable dreamer.
According to the film, inception—the planting of one thought into another’s mind through shared dreaming—was thought to be impossible. Naysayers to inception suggested that a dreamer could not be given an idea, because s/he would always able to trace where it had come from and thus it would not be accepted because it had not grown from his or her own thinking.
Yet, this is my daily activity.
Teaching, in its purest sense, is an act of inception. We analyze the dreamer. We connect possible ideas that are already in the dreamers’ schema. We build the maze and tacitly, subtly, lead the dreamers through the wilderness of their own minds. Our students are the high-powered subjects. And we, their teachers, are the incognito emissaries who try to extract or implant one piece of information, while simultaneously having an exchange with their subconscious. Through this transaction we allow them to unlock the ideas we need them to discover for themselves. Too far? Perhaps, but these are the complex levels of thinking that we wish for our students to engage in on a regular basis.
Each day in the classroom is another attempt to go a level deeper. Careful not to wake our precious sleepwalkers, we simply guide their slumbering footsteps towards a path of brighter, more vivid imagery in their own psyches. Each day I gather more information about my subjects and push them to naturalize this otherwise foreign notion that their own thinking matters. We go through the investigative process, helping the students to test their hypotheses and reimagine the world, as only it could be perceived in their dreams.
We engage in dialogues where the students toss and turn with symbols, earlier memories, and possible areas of their unconscious thinking that have yet to be opened. We explore uncharted lands and vast territories populated entirely by adolescent storm clouds. We lead dreamers to the brink of their comfort levels, via zones of proximal development, and attempt to teach them how to best even their fiercest nightmares.
We play with physics and history, nonfiction and fantasy, to blend together an architectural masterpiece that could only exist in our students’ own minds. We marry the simple with the complex, and, as they try to make sense of things and understand, reconstruct an entire world that our dreamers will recognize as it exists when they’re awake. We motivate and instigate, in hopes that eventually the children—our students, the dreamers—will achieve one end: true inspiration. We are not always successful, but we fantasize all the more, with the sincere yearning for the day when our precious daydreamers will visualize their world anew and on their own, with none of our projections.more from Malcolm King on the blog
more about Young Achievers Science and Mathematics Pilot School on the blog