bob-rossMy daughter and I have started binge watching Bob Ross on Netflix. You remember Bob Ross, the painter in the 80’s who painted landscapes that were almost as soothing as his voice. I remembered his repeated phrases of “happy little trees” and “let’s give this tree a friend,” but I had forgotten about another key phrase of his, and now it’s my absolute favorite:

You don’t have to be crazy to do this job, but it helps.

This phrase applies to teaching more than any other profession I know. After all, as educators, we are artists. We create something (a classroom environment, a lesson plan, a learning experience) that we hope our audience will be inspired by. And, Bob Ross is right; being a little bit crazy can be a big help in this job. If you’re playing squarely within the established rules, you’re probably not reaching the full potential of your students. So, here are just a few ways to push the educational envelope that only a crazy person would be willing to try!

  • Make your classroom a place students want to be.
  • Have students design learning spaces in your classroom.
  • Set out what students need to learn, then ask them to design how they’ll learn it and how they’ll be assessed.
  • Use YouTube instead of a textbook.
  • Emphasize critical thinking and creativity more than any individual content area.
  • Make sure elementary school is about play and fun, middle school is about self-discovery and accountability, high school is about citizenship and lifelong learning.
  • Tell your students when you don’t know the answer.
  • If students don’t do an assignment, don’t let them off the hook with a “0.” Hold them accountable. Make them do the work.
  • Judge your classroom by the level of joy and curiosity exhibited.
  • Focus less on teaching, more on learning.
  • Create assignments where students feel as accountable to one another as they do to you.
  • When students do investigations, make sure they don’t know the “answer” they are “supposed” to get before doing the investigation.
  • Let students use smartphones.
  • Require parents, community members, and business leaders to teach or co-teach your class.
  • Embarrass yourself in front of your students.
  • Show your students how much you care.

Bonus: Here’s a crazy idea for administrators: Treat your best teachers like rock stars! Write a press release, give them a forum to share, seek their endorsements, and give them huge contracts!

If crazy worked for Bob Ross, I know it can work for you, too. Give it a try.