The Meaning of Meraki

fullsizerenderA year ago almost to the day, I wrote my first post on this blog, The Meaning of Meraki, shortly after being acquainted with the word itself. Fitting, that this month I received the necklace above from my family, who had it specially made for my birthday, recognizing what this word has come to mean to me.

Meraki…the soul, creativity or love you put into something. The essence of yourself you put into your work.  

I am not sure I can truly explain or articulate my love affair with this word.  It just is.  I love what it means and what it stands for.  I love the way it looks on a page.  I love how it found its way to me. I love that it is of Greek origin and it is one of those words that has no direct translation in English. I love that since being introduced to it I have found many other fascinating untranslatable words, some examples you can read about here. I love that I think about it often.  I love that I have witnessed what I deem as real life examples of the word’s essence in people who are obviously passionate about their jobs, their hobbies, and their life, which have included; artists, athletes, musicians, inventors, chefs, students, and educators I have encountered over the past year.

It is a blessing and gift to find passion, joy, reward, and love in what we do and how we spend our time. This past weekend, I came across another great example of this in reading  Shelley Moore’s book One Without the Other: Stories of Unity Through Diversity and Inclusion. This book is a must read for all educators.  It explores how inclusive education can increase the learning and life chances of all students.  After reading the book and looking further into some of Shelley’s work online, one thing that becomes quickly apparent is her strong experience base and her true passion for children and education.  She is a master storyteller who appears to leave much of her heart and soul in all that she does.  She has most certainly found her meraki, and through her work, shares her voice to inspire that in others.  

In the book, Shelley Moore, suggests a definition of inclusion in which there is no “other”. Instead, she states, “ We are diverse, all of us. We all have strengths, we all have stretches and we all need to get better at something. The difference in teaching to diversity, however, is that we don’t start with our deficits, we start with our strengths.”

Imagine the possibilities if we organized our students by strengths instead of most schools’ traditional model of deficits. Imagine the possibilities if we supported our students in their quest to find their passions and fuel their interests. Imagine if schools were places that relentlessly sparked the inspiring artists, scientists, engineers, musicians, poets, designers, inventors and makers in our midst with regular opportunities for creation and exploration.  Imagine the possibilities if we gave learners the opportunity to explore these interests using a student driven, personalized learning approach that honoured voice, choice, and autonomy. Imagine if innovative programs like High Tech High and inquiry/interest based initiatives like Genius Hour were the norm in our schools and not the exception. And imagine the possibilities if ultimately, as educators we served as guides in supporting our learners in finding their own sense of meraki.

This week I received a gift; a beautiful piece of jewelry, envisioned by my 13-year-old daughter capturing a word, a concept really, that means a lot to me.  However, the real potential gift is the realization of the meraki that lies within all of us.  




ham-fbRecently, in a conversation with a colleague, the musical and recent Broadway sensation, “Hamilton” was brought to my attention. To be honest, once he explained it was about American founding father, Alexander Hamilton and the American Revolution my interest waned significantly. Don’t get me wrong, I do LOVE a good musical. Seeing a show on Broadway has always been on my bucket list, and I enjoy what I can in the way of musical tours through Winnipeg or those  to the big screen. But, if there is anything that interests me less than American politics, it is American history. It’s typically not my thing, so Hamilton was not on my radar.

However, as I looked for a Saturday afternoon “Cleaning the House” sort of playlist on Spotify this weekend, wouldn’t you know that indeed the “Hamilton” original cast recording had somehow made its way to my recommended section. I decided to give it a chance.

As I let it play out, I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised.

As the musical score played on, I was sold. Clever, creative, contemporary, inventive, moving, and unique…Hamilton is in every sense, truly a work of art. It tells the lesser known story of Alexander Hamilton, from his humble beginnings, to his rise in the ranks to be George Washington’s right hand man, his role in writing the Federalist Papers and the shaping of America, his scandalous personal life and the tragedies he encounters along the way.

How Hamilton’s creator, Lin Manuel Miranda, manages to take this historic storyline of the life of Alexander Hamilton and so passionately bring it to life using hip-hop and a modernized perspective, is beyond extraordinary. The soundtrack is truly remarkable including contemporary hip- pop, rap and R & B influenced songs you will choose to listen to over and over again. The storyline is informative, engaging, fast-paced and captivating.

In my mind, this musical is truly one of a kind, and it seems well deserved of every bit of critical acclaim, the countless awards and the record breaking box office sales it has received. It is lively, energetic and laugh out loud funny. It is a history lesson like you’ve never had before. It is moving, gut wrenching and at times brought me to tears. If the music in itself is this powerful, I can only imagine the emotion and reaction that must be evoked by experiencing this story in theatre. Add that to the bucket list….

For me, the most interesting part of this story lies with the playwright. Lin Manuel Miranda, an American actor, writer, rapper, and composer with Puerto Rican roots is an intriguing individual and speaks articulately about his inspiration for writing the musical. When asked about the innovative, contemporary spin he has put on these 18th century beginnings he discusses the creative license of artists and says “I think that’s what we do as artists. It’s coming up with, what’s the thing that only I can contribute? It’s saying, hello world, here’s this idea that never existed. It’s in my brain, and unless I express it, it’s only going to stay in my brain. It’s more about personal expression than imposing your will on the world. It’s more about, you know, if I don’t get this idea out of my head and onto paper, it dies with me. You think to yourself, what’s the thing that’s not in the world that should be in the world?” Hear more of Miranda’s reflections and insight on the writing of Hamilton in the video below.

Lin Manuel Miranda’s words resonate with me. We are all creators. Each and every one of us has novel, ingenuitive, worthy ideas that deserve to see the light of day. Each and every one of us is a creator in our own right, based on our own strengths, passions and interests.

As parents it is our job to support and help develop this creativity in our children. As educators part of our role is to encourage creativity in our learners and help them to make connections, take risks and go in new directions. Somewhere along the way Lin Manuel Miranda found the inspiration, the insight, and the ideas to create Hamilton and put this unique, monumental and hugely enjoyable masterpiece out there into the world and for that the world is a better place. Check it out!

(**Note: I found this link to Hamilton’s script/lyrics helpful when listening through  for the first time.)