The Year of the Outlier
In the recently published book by Tom Wagner called Creative Innovators, he defines outlier teachers in the following way,
“Outlier teachers strive to develop students’ individual voice and intrinsic motivation, while structuring projects so that students work collaboratively and use multiple disciplines to understand real-world problems” (page 288).
“These teachers create the teaching and learning environment that develop young peoples’ capacity to innovate-how expertise, creative thinking skills and motivation are best developed " (p.232).
“Once again, we see the importance of an outlier teacher whose collaborative, project-based, interdisciplinary approach to learning has a profound effect on the development of a young person.” (p.210).
This is a difficult thing to accomplish for a teacher. To become an outlier you must have years of experience and understanding just as a pre-requisite to what is truly needed by teachers in the classroom to reach students’ intrinsic motivation to learn. To be an outlier the essential personal character that I speak of, which must be brought into the classroom, is risk-taking.
As an educator you must embrace the student experience, see what they see, question what they question and go through a process of awakening to the challenges of grappling with new ideas to investigate, new teaching methodologies to explore and implement, while pursuing investigative experiences in the classroom that can really challenge everyone's way of thinking.
Each year, faced with the fresh minds of new students full of inquiry about the world that they inhabit and their destiny in it, outliers help to mentor students on this discovery process. But not only as mentors, but as a co-investigators in this discovery process called science. It is a yearly new bold experiment in learning that is marked by trial-and-error and continual discoveries for all stakeholders based on who we are and how we fit into the world presented to us.