The Element of NON-Design

Yes, I talk a lot about the Elements of Design. Yes, my district’s entire art curriculum is based upon the Elements of Design. However, today I am talking about another Element.

The book “the Element” by Sir Kenneth Robinson”How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything”

I was browsing my local library (yes, I am a library junkie -why pay for books when you can check them out for free?) and I was heading in to check out some other books I had on hold. Well, I came across this book and thought it was fate. You see, I’ve recently showed the following video to my art department at one of our Professional Development sessions.  (remember I am the art department facilitator in my district). Sir Kenneth is internationally recognized in the areas of human potential, innovation,  and creativity. He also has a very famous TED Talk entitled: Why School Kill Creativity.


So, if you spend the time to watch this video, you will see how this relates to teaching art. Our educational system is broken. Lets be honest. Do you ever find the more art is “like math” or “like reading” the more we get recognized, when in fact we should be doing exactly the opposite. We should embrace our discipline for what it is, a creative and problem solving center where kids can be different, can be themselves, and can use skills they WILL use in the future.

I am planning on reading his book.  The book, “The Element” talks about how finding your passion changes everything, and how some of the world’s most successful people were not successful in school (ring a bell to remind you of some of your best art students?). I bet so.  When people arrive  at their “Element” they feel most like themselves, most inspired and achieve at their highest levels.

So… as I read I will start to discover. What is my element?  I’ll keep you posted.

Until then-

A calling is: Where your greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need. What is your calling, your “Element”? I don’t’ have an answer right now, but I sure have some good ideas….  am working toward pinpointing it, because if you don’t know where you are going… You’ll probably end up somewhere else!

Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • Can’t wait to read it~! I love that TED talk:) There are a lot of meaningless words in our education system now. Ken makes me feel like I’m not crazy! Love him!

  • It sounds like this book has alot in common with Daniel Pink’s latest book, Drive. He says that every person has a sentence- and asks the question “What’s your sentence?” It’s about extrinsic/intrinsic motivation in the workplace, but has alot to do with education. It’s worth a read!

    • That book is on my list to read! I just love this kind of research that S.K.R. and D.P are doing- It’s right up my alley, and all art teacher’s alleys!

  • S. Brooks

    I read this book over the summer and ended up skimming the stories of “the famous people” because it became repetative. Thankfully we are already in the right “tribe” which he spends most of the book discussing. The single paragraph I will take directly to my classroom is his description of asian vs western art – well written, even for elementary students (page 151 in papreback book). I really think this book is for people who struggle with their purpose in life…I think it is a good read for my teenage children before they apply to college. Would be great to recommend to high school students, if I taught HS level! Have you started reading it yet?

    • Yes, I am over halfway through! I think I am the only nerd who takes notes when they read for fun. I am getting a lot of great ideas for narrowing down my purpose in life and the exact niche I want to focus on in my career. Even though I love what I do, refining is still very helpful. I will post more on the highlights of the book when I am finished. I agree it would be great for High School students! Thanks for stopping by!

  • S. Brooks

    Jessica, It doesn’t sound like you have children of your own yet, if you plan to have some then be open and flexible career-wise because they do tend to throw unpredictable curves into our lives!

    You asked in another post about other books art teachers have found helpful, and my 2 recent favorites are “Studio Thinking” by Lois Hetland (and 3 other authors) and “Teach Like a Champion” by Lemov. Honestly, if I were to recommend only one book to art teachers it would be Studio Thinking. see this list…

    Hope that link works for you!

    • Thanks for the link! I love project zero and had not yet seen this! You are correct, no kids yet, and flexibility is definitely a goal of mine.

      Thank you so much for your feedback and resources, I’ll have to add them to my Shelfari wish list. It’s great to have other colleagues to learn from!

      • S. Brooks

        Interestingly, it wasn’t until after I read the Studio Thinking book that I came across articles and heated discussions between the Project Zero authors of the book and various people within the NAEA. Apparently this book was very controversial when it was first published in 2007…and may still be. If you read it, it will be interesting to see if you can find out what people “in the know” think of it now. I think it is a “cutting edge” book and is the harbinger of change and threatens the status quo that is why it was so controversial. At the same time, it is really the basics of art!!!

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