I was attending a PD run by a friend of mine, and he always starts with some mix-it-up/get to know each other questions. You know, get in groups of 3 and talk about this, then different groups of 4 and talk about that. He asked us, “What would you do if you won a Macarthur genius award?”
Do you know it? I have followed it in recent years because I have known two people who won it! Liz Lerman, a dancer, choreographer and teacher (I took classes with her), and Ruth DeFries, who studies and teaches about ecology and sustainable development (our kids went to school together.) You might not know them but you might have heard of recent awardees Lin Manuel Miranda and Ta-Nehisi Coates.
The MacArthur Fellowship is awarded to those demonstrating “extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.” No one can apply, a select committee makes secret nominations, and winners are notified by a surprise phone call. It is ”an investment in a person’s originality, insight, and potential.” The current prize is $625,000 over one year and there are NO STRINGS attached about how to spend the money. The idea is to free creative people from having to earn a living for awhile, so they can just work at what they want. (Source: Wikipedia.)
In my group of science teachers, one tired man just wanted to pay off debts and retire. A woman would visit other countries to see how science is taught. Another would start her own school based on experiential learning.
They all had to stop and really think. Me, the ideas just jumped out of my mouth. I would start origami clubs in inner city middle schools, because I think it would be fun and would really bring unforeseen benefits to some kids. And I would work on writing my book – for parents on science in their children’s world -that I have been thinking about. (And working on some.)
What does it mean, that I knew right away? Since I’m not getting the MacArthur Genius Award, how will I do what I want to, anyway? Retire early? Fit it in while I teach?
What would YOU do, if YOU got that surprise phone call?