"What is going to happen to Apple now?" one of my students asked me. I paused. "Well," I said. "It's as if Willy Wonka has died." Their eyes went wide. Now this was something they understood. "Sure, he's passed the factory on to Charlie, but the question is now what inventions were already put in place, and will the factory still retain its golden glow of innovation? Frankly we don't know. He was the glow for a long time."
Where were you when? There have been those moments that we all share as a culture and today was such a moment. Where were you when Kennedy was shot, when the Shuttle exploded, when the white Bronco was chased by police through the streets of Los Angeles? For some of us, it's where were you when you heard Jim Henson died. And today it was Steve Jobs' passing.
As a teacher, it is our job to make students aware of current events and to grab the opportunities that arise as a means to teach about character and future-skills. Today was such a day.
It seemed both the online and offline world were in mourning today, and my classroom was no exception as I ensured that my students imprinted this moment as a shared part of our culture's common memory. I wasn't sure what they knew of Steve Jobs prior to today, but as they all walked into my classroom to see the apple homepage on my LCD projector, each one of them proclaimed in one way or another, "Hey, I know him."
Yes, you do know him. Or you know of him. You have his inventions on your table at home or in your pocket or in your backpack. We have all known him.
In fact, so much of what we do daily in our classroom has relationship with the innovations of Steve Jobs or is only one degree away from his contributions. When my middle school students spoke to NASA last week, they spoke as a panel at the DARPA conference, and DARPA invented the new iPhone SIRI feature. We conducted our research on our eMacs in the classroom. We presented our Weebly websites on my MacBook. Some students even built the websites using their iPhones in the classroom. My students walk around with ear buds dangling from their collars, iPods tucked somewhere on their person. I am now using my iPad for presentations, and even my pre-schooler learns to read using an iPad as well.
So I decided to do a little tribute to Steve Jobs today in my classroom, a little quickwrite with each period using some quotes that were posted this morning by friends on Facebook and Twitter. I posted them on the board and asked the students to select one to write about, a character-based literary analysis of sorts. For Steve Jobs has said:
"Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your inner voice."
"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life."
"The only way to be truly satisfied is to do great work. And the only way to do great work is to do what you love."
Now, rather than summarize their tributes, I thought I'd share my students' voices with you today. Below are just a few of their responses, golden lines from a few of their journal entries. It is clear, as you shall see, that Jobs not only spoke to the material needs of the populace, but had a gift reaching their spirit as well. I hope that based on their writing, the students will have more than an iPhone in their pocket as evidence of Steve Jobs' influence; they'll have his words in their hearts.
Here are just a few of their lines influenced by the words of Jobs:
"Live your own life, and don't pretend to be something you are not, otherwise...who you really are will disappear. I guess these quotes bounce off one another, as if somehow these quotes are connected. Follow your own instincts and don't disappear."
"When one is doing the job one's heart loves, such as being a fisherman or teacher, it creates incredible work. This satisfies the soul and in turn produces no regrets in life."
"As humans, we need to know who we are. We need to see our full potential. We need to make our own history."
"Don't let your voice be hindered; rather, let it encapsulate your mind on your goal."
"Most people's imaginations stop because they think it will be foolish of them to dream wildly. On the contrary, foolishness is just what we need."
"You're never going to reach your potential doing something you hate. The world wouldn't be what it is today if no one followed their own path..."
"Don't be embarrassed; be a leader with no boundaries."
"Mistakes, regrets, passion, inspiration, and curiosity make us. We should use our time wisely and spend it trying to change something...Doing the things we love and inspiring others to do the same is what tells our story."
As teachers it is not our job to tell them the words to say or to give them the answers. Instead, we give them the access to the models in life so that they might find those answers themselves. Steve Jobs became that model today, both in his how we chose to make his way through life and in how he chose to make his way towards death.
There was something about Steve Jobs that speaks to students on the edge of finding their own glow. For each kid dreams of being their own Wonka one day, and Jobs was the embodiment of those dreams attained. We bowed our heads, but appropriately it was not in silence. Instead, the silence was in writing tributes to a life spent creating so that we might one day create too.
Follow Heather Wolpert-Gawron on Twitter: www.twitter.com/tweenteacher