Teaching, Inspiration, and Rock ‘n Roll

The world is so full of boring people. It’s important for leaders, teachers, writers, performers, and artists to share an influence that is NOT boring with this starved-for-passion world.

The world is so full of boring people. It’s important for leaders, teachers, writers, performers, and artists to share an influence that is NOT boring with this starved-for-passion world.

I started teaching at age 27. Though I thought I was old then, I look back now and see that I was most assuredly still a very young adult. Back then I was very much a self-starter. After subbing in a district for 3 months I managed to get hired on a year’s teaching contract with NO credential based purely on my wit and candor and my ability to speak Spanish and English. In California, this is called an “emergency credential” and it’s rarely done nowadays . . . for good reason. I had absolutely no classroom management skills, apart from being a sub which is vastly different from being the only grown-up in charge of 36 ten year olds for 185 days. Those first 3 years were very tough, but I got by on the inspiration of my twenties. It seems like my thirties have required more strategy than instinct to find success.

Now, 10 years later with a full credential and a Master’s degree, I still often find myself at a loss for inspiration. I never give up though. On those days that I am discouraged and unmotivated, I try and get away from the daily routine. I put aside the lessons I had planned (as much as is possible to stay within my responsibilities) and I focus on the things that I truly enjoy: guitar, art, poetry, reading, songwriting, nature, etc. Then I tap into that wonder I have for those things and bridge it to the material I have to teach. For example: if I have to teach reading data on a graph, I make a graph about the different guitars there are.

I adapt my lessons that day to whatever is really giving me personal inspiration at that moment. All people (even small ones) are attracted to a leader or performer who is passionate about what he is doing. Kids want to emulate that energy. I remember going to see REM in concert in my 20’s and being so drawn in to what singer Michael Stipe was doing onstage. I didn’t understand the weird symbols on the screen or the strange movements he made, like hitting a metal chair with a wooden rod on the off-beats on “World Leader Pretend,” but I tapped into his passion and energy for what he was doing, and when they left the stage I screamed for an encore. It was like a moth to a lightbulb, the lightbulb was passion. The world is so full of boring people. It’s important for leaders, teachers, writers, performers, and artists to share an influence that is NOT boring with this starved-for-passion world.

Discouragement that saps inspiration is the teacher’s biggest enemy. By tapping into and bridging my passions with my students, I am able to get through those tough days when I have to methodically put one foot in front of the other and keep remembering that I got into the profession to make a difference. With a brief look inward, it works every time.

Author: Damien Riley

Having been a public school teacher since 1997, I've gained valuable classroom experience. Sometimes a great tool is a dynamite lesson plan. These posts are from a real teaching journey. I hope they inspire you. Thanks for reading!

43 thoughts on “Teaching, Inspiration, and Rock ‘n Roll”

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  4. Oh, I love it! You are so good, I wish I had you for a teacher when I was young. You are running on adrenaline aren’t you! I keep slipping over here to see if you are on your way to the hospital yet. Did you send this on to Inspiration Bit yet?

  5. Thank you so much, Damien for participating in this group project. I too wish there were more teachers like you.

    I’ve been teaching for 9 years (Web Design and Programming in colleges), quit it last year to concentrate more on practical development.

    My inspiration came from students – seeing that some of them not just understood what I was teaching about but were actually able to produce some outstanding work based on my lectures.

    If you could contact me and send me your email address so I could reach you later on with some questions regarding the project, that would be great.
    Thanks again, Vivien.

  6. I see you added a blogroll! Thanks for the link. Where’s the twitter thingie? I was going to look and see if you have a baby yet!

    Heya hiya! Nope, no baby yet. My twitter is over on the about page, I thought the front was a little gaudy. But it

  7. You are so welcome. It should get some traffic to your site. What do use for your contact page? I’m searching for a plug in. I’m trying to do some changes to my site to clean it up. I hate a messy house, don’t you?

    [I hate it, but I still have one, lol]

    Shelly, you asked about the mail plugin on my contact page. I

  8. Where do you teach? I think I’d like to move there. The world needs more creative teachers like you :)

    This is another reason why I am a big, huge, screaming and screeching proponent to keep the arts in our schools. You don’t have to be the musician, designer, writer or painter of the century, but the arts provide an outlet and a creative and positive means of solving problems and life’s little challenges.

    Loved your entry!

    Jessica The Rock Chick

    Thanks a lot! I liked your recent

  9. Thank you for this uplifting entry, Damien. The world definitely needs more passionate and creative teachers like you.

    All the best to your wife.

    I’ve commented here yesterday, but somehow my comment didn’t show up – perhaps it was flagged as spam?

    Thanks for your comment, and hosting the call for posts. I found your comment from yesterday. I

  10. Great Post. I remember more lessons taught by a teacher that used their own life experiences than the lessons they taught strictly from their textbook.

    Keep up the good work.

  11. Vivien, I more or less “cast this post on the water” effortlessly. I can’t thank you enough for publishing it to your site. I am learning I write best when I just let the “me” come out. Thanks again.

  12. My son would have responded quite well to a teacher using your methods. I’d attend a class you were teaching in a heartbeat. Passion and energy can pull reluctant students out of disinterest.

  13. The energy you bring (positive and full of passion, enthusiasm or whatever you want to call it) is very contagious and in my opinion worth more than any “papered credentials” any teacher brings to a classroom.

  14. Agreed that the creative teaching approach is the best way to go.
    If you can get the students more engaged and excited they learn a lot more. Well done.
    Just wish their were more teachers like you where I live!

  15. I love this idea! As an INFP, I am afraid of losing the things I am passionate about, while going back to teaching. Your idea of doing something you are passionate about, to help you connect to the material, is lovely. I will use this. Thanks! 

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