Firstly, it’s way overused. Like for example, in this blog post. I’ll be using it a lot. Maybe.
Secondly, it’s hard to define. My dear friend, Google, tells me that it is “the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.” What does that actually mean? Those are words put together in a way to give you something to think about, but really, can we actually define creativity. I like to think of it as “the action behind a new perspective”. I’m sure you have your own version. Please be sure to share it!
Thirdly, it’s easy to squash and very hard to bring back. Let me explain:
Walk into a classroom of kindergarteners and ask the question, “Who is an artist?” I bet most of them will raise their hand. Try the same thing with 7th graders… (Are artistry and creativity are synonymous here? – You could try asking “Who’s creative” instead and see if there is a difference.)
The main issue I see with the way that traditional classrooms and schools are structured is, simply put, a box. Yes, that’s it, a box. Children are put into specific categories, placed into special classes, given specific assignments and told exactly how to do them. Over and over again. And then some. They are then judged, graded and confined further by “standardizing” the information that is learned and disseminated by taking the now proverbial number 2 pencil and filling in the not-so-proverbial boxes that the “right” answer goes into. There is only one correct answer and if you don’t know it you won’t get into Harvard. I could rant on, but I won’t.
- Contemplate: Stop. Take a moment to notice nature. Go outside, leave your cell phone behind. Step away from the screen, and just gig yourself time to breathe. Give your mind a break from the constant buzzing of electronics and hug a tree. No, seriously, try it. Hugging from afar is permissible. Take your students on a nature walk and have them slow down and actually smell a flower. You never know what inspiration can be found in nature.
- Rethink: Don’t Google it! Give yourself, or your students, the time to actually think things over. Bring out a question that perplexes and make some time to think through it like you would have in the good old days of 1980, sans computer.
- Enact: Use your body. Find a way to design a use of space to explain a problem by using bodies in that space and physically explaining it. Or not. Just getting up and moving around may stimulate the brain to do things differently. Walking meetings are a great way to trigger ideas – and to cut meetings short (who wants to walk for 2 hours, right?)
- Alter: Physically change your workspace. Sit on the floor or on your desk. What’s the view like form there? See any crumbs, legos, loose change or miniature penguins? Give yourself permission to take a different perspective. By changing your work/play environment, you’ll hopefully alter the perspective on some of the problems at hand. I’ve gotten some of my best ideas in the shower or on a run. Try it on your students by having them sit on the ground, in your chair, on your (or their) desk, in the grass or ask them where they’d like to sit… Although that might open up a whole other can of worms.
- Tell a lie: Tell your students a blatant (or not so blatant) lie. Change the rules of how you teach and what you teach. Then, during the course of class, let them know that you were lying and ask them to identify the lie.
- Eliminate: Get rid of tests. At least the way most of think of tests… Give your students access to an alternative evaluation model so that they can try, fail, fail again and put in the effort into doing something for the sake of learning and not for the sake of a grade. Place value on the process more than the accomplishment. Give them a chance to express themselves in ways that they have not been able to before and set them up to be effortful in their explorations rather than be results minded. Give them permission to fail! I’ll end with another quote from Sir Ken Robinson:
Do you have ideas on inspiring creativity in your life and your classroom? Please share!