Jeff Robin’s new book Teach Like an Artist shows us how to come alive again.
A big, inconspicuous FedEx box tangled up in scotch tape greeted me on the doorstep as I returned from Europe. Its content, Jeff Robin’s newest book, Teach like an Artist, promised a different kind of trip. A CBD gummy comes closest to describing my hallucinatory reading experience: fast-paced, colorful, imaginative, literary, scientific, romantic, questioning, probing, and — maddening. Here is a book with the bones to make us come alive again, by making.
Why aren’t we all teaching like artists?
Storyteller of projects, Jeff Robin is widely considered a pioneer of Project-Based Learning (PBL). I’m morbidly thinking that many innovators are destined to become understood in the afterlife…Van Gogh, Galileo, …ugh, Robin? I sure hope not. He was a founding teacher at High Tech High School in San Diego and covered every square inch of the school in student-made art.
Jeff believes that making stuff will forever change you.
Now retired from High Tech High and a little grumpy about the resistance he faced at times, Jeff resolved to write this book to give us evidence of the rich learning that springs from a collaborative curriculum. Unapologetic about his role in stirring things up — “Yes I always got into trouble, that’s my job as an artist!”— Jeff’s students and colleagues took issue with his dreams.
Sustainability, economics, religion, medicine, immigration, war. Art is how the ideas are represented; biology, physics, math, history, political science, and human narrative is how you get to make them into a thing. This requires a deep dive into multiple disciplines that takes months to complete. Your head might even spin in a calculicious sort of way when you try to follow the algebra required for each student to build a…chair!
It seems to me that building a chair is a fine artifact to produce in high school. Teens sit for 8 hours a day, or 2912 hours…