It may not seem like it at first, but there’s a lot that elementary, middle school, and high school teachers can learn from Amanda Palmer’s book The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help.
Before we begin, it’s important to know who Amanda Palmer is. She’s an artist whose top priority is to create connections between people–specifically her fans. She started her career as a living statue in Boston and then through a lot of hard work became a rock star, social media pioneer, crowdfunding genius, and inspirational TED speaker. She’s most famous for using Kickstarter to successfully fund an album (over one million dollars), which has helped open the door for many other artists who need a way to fund projects without the traditional help of labels, publishers, or production companies. Her approach is obviously not traditional, which has earned her a lot of admirers and a whole lot of haters.
Palmer’s book boils down to this: Let people help you, and if you’re not receiving the help you want or need, just ask.
I must admit at first, Palmer’s ease at asking for whatever she wanted struck me as strange. Whether she asked for money as a living statue, places to stay for free, or volunteers for her concerts, I kept reverting to a very ungenerous frame of mind, which boiled down to: She shouldn’t be doing that, it isn’t right. But over the course of reading the book, another part of me was able to break through this stinginess and understand that there is no harm in asking for things. In fact, many people want to give–whether it be money, time, or other forms of support–but aren’t given the opportunity because no one is asking for help.
We live in a society that puts a high value on self-reliance. I agree with the importance of trusting oneself and working hard to make things happen. This fits perfectly with Palmer’s philosophy in The Art of Asking. You need to set goals and do everything in your power to achieve those goals, but there comes a time when help from a caring person is the only factor that can make your vision a reality.
So how does this relate to teachers? For a long time, if educators wanted a technology or resources in their classrooms, they had to either buy it, ask the school’s parent club, or hope there was money is the principal’s budget. Now with the internet and wonderful websites like Donors Choose, teachers can go directly to people and organizations with money and ask for things. Fortunately, everyone from celebrities to businesses to education administrators support this form of asking, and it seems that Donors Choose’s existence is playing an important role in encouraging teachers to ask.
Asking for resources such as crayons, Chromebooks, and 3D printers is wonderful, but I’d like to see teachers have the confidence to ask for more.
May I have some professional development to teach _______?
May I attend the ________ conference?
I’m not sure how to manage this classroom. Can you help me?
Would it be OK if you were my mentor this year?
How can I help you?
These questions are many times not asked, and that’s unfortunate. Teachers should feel comfortable asking principals for PD, conference attendance, and ideas for classroom management. Finding a mentor in a career is extremely important–in fact, finding a mentor can be critical for success in all areas of life.
Determining what you need and asking others for help is not needy and distasteful. We live in a word of back and forth, give and take. Often the exchange of services requires money, and this makes things very efficient, but it’s important to remember that cultivating a generous spirit is important to sustaining happiness. One of the best ways to become a thankful person is to help others and ask for help. Oftentimes, receiving help and asking for help spur each other, creating a giving cycle that results in healthy appreciation for those around you.
I think there’s no other profession where a heart full of gratitude is as important than the field of education. Asking infuses a person with a spirit of gratefulness, and that spreads to students in the classroom.
So in closing, this is the most important factor: We need to instill an asking spirit within kids so that when they have a question… they ask! It may sound corny, but one question can change a person’s life, and this is why I recommend Amanda Palmer’s book.