Recently, I was visiting with a colleague and chatting about the idea of being original. I have often quoted Mark Twain,
“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.
While I still believe that to be true, I think we all bring a REALness component that is unlike any other. It is how we unlock our unique “curious combination” of talent, strengths, experiences, and ideas that are “original” to us. No two are the same, which leads me to my next thought regarding imitation.
I’ve also heard the quote by Charles Caleb Colton,
“Imitation is the highest form of flattery.”
While I do, in fact, believe this quote to be accurate at times, its meaning tends to leave me with more questions than satisfaction. I believe children often imitate adults, and I love that. My little niece is always mimicking my every move. However, even at four-years-old, she puts her own spin on the things she learns from me. She has her own favorite color and her own style of hair, shoes, etc. She has her personal opinion and voices it proudly.
Just like Olivia, I believe it is vital that young people discover their unique piece of the puzzle of life. Puzzle pieces fit in only one space. They are not to be stacked on top of each other or shoved in the place of another piece. If we cover up a puzzle piece with ours, the final image will be incomplete. In the same manner, if we force our piece to fit in the wrong place, it will likely break. This exemplifies my idea of originality; students and colleagues will adopt ideas from us, but they can and should be encouraged to incorporate their individuality.
You’re likely asking, where are you going with all of this?
I believe, as educators, we need to be R.E.A.L. Be original. Do we steal ideas or combinations of ideas? Most definitely. That’s what good teachers do, right? We are better together, no doubt. However, if need be, give credit where it is due; then, integrate your REALness in the mix. This might not work for every single idea, but for many, it will be the case.
Allow your creativity to shine. Allow your unique combination to secure your puzzle piece. Then, foster this principle in those you serve.
Be original. Be R.E.A.L. Be YOU!
*Regarding the quote below, I honestly don’t believe we will “fail” when we are true to ourselves, but I certainly do not want to succeed at being anything less than the REAL me.