Those words are words that have been spoken by Jacob Barnett. Jacob is a young man who was labeled with Autism when he was two years old. He wasn’t supposed to talk, or even learn to tie his shoes. Now, he has been recognized world-wide for his work within the field of science, in particular within the field of astrophysics (and wears flip-flops). He is 14 now, teaching at a research university, working on his PhD, and in line to be rewarded a Nobel Prize someday. Watch this TedxTeen talk to get an idea of who this incredible young man is.
Jacob is also currently writing a book about how to make math more approachable for kids his age. Additionally he runs a non-profit that benefits kids who are on the autism spectrum by focusing on social skills and coaching them on thinking in their own unique ways. His mom has written a book titled The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius. And more than that, he loves basketball and root beer floats.
I wanted to let you know of Jacob, if you weren’t familiar with him already, but I began writing this post with his words in mind today for a personal reason.
His charge to everyone is stopping the learning, starting the thinking with your own unique perspective, starting to create and be your field of expertise or passion – no matter what that passion may be. And because of this, he has my mind spinning in many directions today.
Recently I was approached by a journalist. She wanted to interview me to be included in an article she is writing about transitioning kids with disabilities into a new school year. In particular, she wanted to know tips to give to parents, especially tips about IEPs that I could share.
As I spoke to her about the things I believe are important, she stopped me. She asked if I had ever considered writing a book about what I like to call the “Working IEP”. I told her yes, I had thought of writing a book about it before, and yes, many others have mentioned to me that it would possibly be well received and useful within the field of education, not only for parents but for educators as well.
I haven’t committed myself to it…until now. I am writing about it today, so you can help me stick to my promise to myself.
I am a person who spends a lot of time in the “learning” phase. This has been true of not only my academic endeavors, but also within my recreational passions too, such as cooking. I love to learn, which most days a very good thing.
I also do a lot of thinking. I have been told by many that I connect things through the years, through the conversations, through the relationships and through the experiences and learning that I have, in ways that others seemingly don’t connect them.
To give you an idea, in my mind, my thinking about education looks like threads, attaching all of the pieces together to make a whole. Some threads are thicker than others, some are different colors, but always they are connected and related. It is the way I go into meetings, or have initial and ongoing conversations with parents or educators. I know those threads are all present in any given situation, but which ones stand out? Which ones are weaker or stronger? Which ones can we pull on and influence change? Which ones do we need to weave?
When it comes to creating, as much as I do this, I am constantly trying to figure out how to do more of it. How do I share the things I have learned, the thoughts I have had, and create something that is useful to a larger audience?
The answer comes to me today from Jacob’s teaching. BE your field.
So, in the spirit that Jacob sets forward, and the charge he made during his TedxTeen talk, I am going to do just that. I am going to write a book that I think the field of education so desperately needs. I am going to offer my “brick” to be added to the wall of thinking that is constantly being built in my profession.
My hope is that by writing a book about “Working IEPs” that I can share what I know about the systems, the cultures, the people and the policies that influence kids being successful or not within schools. I have been learning about this area for more than 20 years. I have been thinking critically about it for almost as long.
It is my time to start creating. It is my time to BE the field.
What are you going to do? How will you take the charge set forth by Jacob? What has he inspired you to do today?
Please share your thoughts here, I imagine it will make your inspirations that much more real by voicing them. I know it has for me! Now, off I go to start an outline…at least I think that is how one starts to write a book?? 😉
Its just stepping over the line into Do ing! I believe in you! – Jake
THANK YOU, Jacob! You are so inspiring. Thank you for reading my post, and best of luck to you in all that you are DO ing! I believe in you as well! Best, Jen
What Jacob said in his excellent talk makes total sense to me and I think the philosopher Karl Popper would have agreed with him: fields don’t consist of material to be memorised from text books according to a set curriculum. They don’t consist of subject matter at all. Rather they consist of *problems* and when we try to do something cool we are thinking about how to solve a particular problem. In fact, all learning occurs in response to problems, whether we like it or not, so we’d better choose good ones — ones that ‘blow our hair back’