Steve Jobs is known for saying that “real artists ship”. As a practicing artist and educator (which at its highest level should be the same thing), that statement is like slamming into a brick wall. It’s a stark reminder that part of our craft is the actual act of having a deadline. And having a deadline is a living thing for an artist, not an end point. What Jobs meant in that simple statement is that true artisans know that perfect does not exist and there is a finite period of time when what you dream, struggle and produce must be shared with the world. The time between the dream and the reality is the pursuit of perfection, but all artists know that without a ship date, their dream will never become a reality.
This is important to remember when it comes to innovation, creativity and laying the foundation for 21st century skills in our teaching practices for our students. It’s wonderful to have a great idea for a lesson, a unit, or a curriculum, but without a ship date – a deadline – it will never reach our students. Will it be perfect? Maybe, maybe not.
It doesn’t have to be.
It can’t be.
In fact, it shouldn’t be.
Real innovation, creativity and 21st century practices occur when you release your idea and then your students make it better. They work with it and through it, play with it and then the magic happens. As an educator, you can see what worked and what didn’t work. You can reflect, diagnose, re-think. You can take that idea or lesson or curriculum and refresh it with what you’ve learned. And then that original thought or idea takes on a new life and art begins.
Good teachers write good lessons and then they stop. Great teachers write great lessons and they learn. Innovative teachers write great lessons, give them up to their students, and constantly revise. In every case, you have to have a ship date to deliver your ideas to the classroom and then decide which kind of teacher you want to be. Too many times, I watch teachers or administrators have a thousand good ideas and then constantly tinker with them. They don’t have an end date in mind in which to do anything with those ideas, so they are just sitting there, churning on a shelf in their heads. What good is that? Our students and fellow educators don’t expect perfection and if we wait around working on our ideas until they meet that standard, we won’t have anything to show for it. Instead, it might be a better practice to set a ship date, work as hard as you can to get that idea ready for the date and then release it and breathe. Watch what happens to it when it hits the world. And then do it all over again until we come up with something the world has never seen.
What a model of innovation that would be in our classrooms, schools and districts. And what better teacher to look to for that path than Steve Jobs? In a world where we a pushing to understand innovation, we have a blueprint already laid out for us. Let’s try building our teaching with that blueprint and setting a target for ourselves. There’s no better time to start (and ship) than today!