Sir Ken Robinson’s 10 most motivational quotes


Teaching | Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sir Ken Robinson’s 10 most motivational quotes

Sir Ken Robinson's 10 most motivational quotes

Sir Ken Robinson motivates those inside and outside of education with his inspiring Ted talks. Here are 10 of his best quotes.

If I need my soul stirred about education and creativity, I turn to Sir Ken Robinson.

He’s an internationally renowned speaker on education and creativity. He has given several phenomenal Ted talks with millions of views each. (Learn more about Sir Ken at his website or follow him on Twitter.)

I remember the first time I watched his Ted talk called “How schools kill creativity”. I wanted to stand up and cheer. I was ready to lead an education revolution. I still watch it on a regular basis to keep my focus on helping my students thrive.

These quotes, in my opinion, are Sir Ken’s best:

On motivation:

“I don’t think there’s a kid in America, or anywhere in the world, who gets out of bed in the morning wondering what they can do to raise their state’s reading standards.  They get out of bed, if they’re motivated, by their own interests and their own development.” (TED: How to escape education’s death valley)

On creativity:

“I define creativity as the process of having original ideas that have value.” (TED: How schools kill creativity)

“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” (TED: How schools kill creativity)

“I heard a great story recently, I love telling it, of a little girl who was in a drawing lesson, she was 6 and she was at the back, drawing, and the teacher said this little girl hardly paid attention, and in this drawing lesson she did. The teacher was fascinated and she went over to her and she said, “What are you drawing?” and the girl said, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” And the teacher said, “But nobody knows what God looks like.” And the girl said, “They will in a minute.” (TED: How schools kill creativity)

[RELATED: Motivating our students]

On talent:

“Human resources are like natural resources; they’re often buried deep. You have to go looking for them, they’re not just lying around on the surface.” (TED: Bring on the learning revolution!)

“Many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not — because the thing they were good at at school wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatized.” (TED: How schools kill creativity)

“You don’t think of Shakespeare being a child, do you? Shakespeare being seven? He was seven at some point. He was in somebody’s English class, wasn’t he? How annoying would that be?” (TED: How schools kill creativity)

On teaching:

“There is no system in the world or any school in the country that is better than its teachers. Teachers are the lifeblood of the success of schools.” (TED: How to escape education’s death valley)

“Education can be stifling, no question about it. One of the reasons is that education — and American education in particular, because of the standardization — is the opposite of three principles I have outlined: it does not emphasize diversity or individuality; it’s not about awakening the student, it’s about compliance; and it has a very linear view of life, which is simply not the case with life at all.” (Interview with Etsy blog)

“Nobody else can make anybody else learn anything. You cannot make them. Anymore than if you are a gardener you can make flowers grow, you don’t make the flowers grow. You don’t sit there and stick the petals on and put the leaves on and paint it. You don’t so that. The flower grows itself. Your job if you are any good at it is to provide the optimum conditions for it to do that, to allow it to grow itself.” (Keynote Speech to the Music Manifesto State of Play conference)

How do these quotes speak to you? What’s your favorite of Sir Ken’s quotes? Share with a comment below!

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  • “Nobody else can make anybody else learn anything. You cannot make them.” How true is that? Then why are teachers evaluated based on students’ test scores?

    “Your job if you are any good at it is to provide the optimum conditions for it to do that, to allow it to grow itself.” I agree 100%. Trying every day to make my classroom a place where students can grow their brain cells. But again, you can’t force it- even in optimum climate, sometimes natural disasters happen- home life, hallway drama, illness, etc. Students still have to CHOOSE to grow with me. I want my class to be so inviting that most students, most of the time, choose to come in and become part of that optimum environment so we can learn together.

    Thanks for sharing inspirational quotes on a grey, rainy Thursday in Indiana, Matt!

    • Matt Miller says:

      Kari — The idea of “You cannot make them learn” always made me think of “No Child Left Behind.” If you think of “No Child Left Behind” like a bus stop, what about the obstinate one that refuses to get on the bus? I guess there are always ways to motivate students … it just takes finding the right motivation, right? 🙂 And I love your description of the atmosphere you provide to make learning possible! Thanks for your comment, as always!

      • mich says:

        Perhaps the child that didnt want to get on the bus, wanted to go somewhere else. Somewhere more interesting and exciting!

  • Ken Keene says:

    Being a bit of a gardner, I found Sir Ken’s quote comparing flower growing with educating children very interesting. Providing optimum conditions is certainly required for a successful outcome. When dealing with seeds you are usually rewarded with the anticipated result. I have never experienced a marigold seed that did not want to accept my help as a gardner in order to become a beautiful marigold. Unfortunately, I have encountered children who do not want to accept my help to become educated. Even a flower seems to know that it must develop roots, a stem, and leaves in order to accomplish its ultimate goal. Some children do not seem to understand that they must develop basic skills in reading, writing, and arithmetic in order to accomplish the ultimate goals about which each of them dreams. A dream (goal) without a vision (plan) is doomed to failure.

    • Matt Miller says:

      Ken — I have also run across students who are flowers that don’t want to take in the water/oxygen/sunshine/etc., and it always amazes me that they have this great opportunity to learn and it gets squandered. Your comment makes me think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs … maybe these students don’t feel that they have all of their most basic of needs met and see education as something higher up Maslow’s needs pyramid. You would think that securing a bright future should be a pretty basic need, though. Thanks for the comment.

  • cori bell says:

    i think the point is being missed here – regarding the garden analogy – i am a preschool teacher and hundreds of children later has taught me that any flower given the right conditions will grow, given excellent conditions will flourish – children have the basic instinct to learn, explore and want to thrive – when a child stops wanting to learn is because there has been some type of blocking experience – such as a gardener that wants the marigold to blossom in wrong climate – all children might need to have their particular growing medium in order to thrive – it means starting the whole learning process for every child through the means that will work best for them – and if that is not accomplished and the learning inspirations have been turned off it will take an extra special means to re-fertilize that child –

    another thought to remember – a quote by will rogers “we can’t all be heroes because someone has to sit on the curb as they go by”

    • Matt Miller says:

      Wow, I really like that take on the garden analogy, Cori. You’re so right — there’s an innate desire to learn in children, and I think as teachers it’s our greatest hope to help those “flowers” grow and not smother them to death. Thanks for your perspective!

      • Debbie says:

        Sorry, this is over 6 months late but just learned about Sir Ken last month–yes, I agree with Cori and Sir Ken. I think if children are resisting learning it’s because of previous conditions. Children cannot fathom securing a bright future for themselves, sometimes even when they’re old enough to understand, if previous conditions in their schooling has already turned them off.

  • […] “Nobody else can make anybody else learn anything. You cannot make them. Anymore than if you are a gardener you can make flowers grow, you don’t make the flowers grow. You don’t sit there and stick the petals on and put the leaves on and paint it. You don’t so that. The flower grows itself. Your job if you are any good at it is to provide the optimum conditions for it to do that, to allow it to grow itself.” – Source […]

  • Kenna Cook says:

    My favorite quote is the one about “America’s standardized education.” As an 8th grade Science teacher in Texas, I get so frustrated when we are asked to get away from “too much “standardized” assessment then give the STAAR test that scares some of the students to death!

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