Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten. Then when you hit puberty they take the crayons away and replace them with dry, uninspiring books on algebra, history, etc. Being suddenly hit years later with the ‘creative bug” is just a wee voice telling you, “I’d like my crayons back, please.” Hugh MacLeod
It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken the joy in creative expression and knowledge. Albert Einstein.
I hope you are not looking for formulas. Or handouts. Or a single technique. Or even a “method.” The creativity-inspiring classroom is a culture not a set of rules or specific activities. It is a mindset that teachers demonstrate to their students everyday.
Creativity doesn’t just happen. It needs to be cultivated. Quite honestly, I don’t know if creativity can be taught. It can be:
- Recognized and rewarded
But directly taught as a separate skill? So far nothing I’ve read or seen allows me to believe it can or should be.
But to keep this from being a terribly short postr, I'll try to identify some things teachers can purposely do in their classrooms that increase the odds of both their students and themselves being more creative.
- Ban clip art.
- Ask for information to be shared in at least two media formats or writing types.
- Encourage the narrative voice in writing and oral presentations.
- Ask for multiple possible answers to questions or multiple possible solutions to problems.
- Give points for “design” on all assignments.
- Instead of simply telling a student his or her response is “wrong,” ask for a reason why the answer was given.
- Use technologies that encourage creativity.
- Ask students to help formulate classroom rules, modify procedures, and solve issues.
- Honor students’ personal interests and unique talents when teaching skills.
- Honor student creativity by giving it a CC License.
- Respect re-mixing.
- Teach the proper use of quoted materials.
- Add creativity spaces for display of student work in your classroom.
- Add “maker-spaces” to your classroom and library.
- Modify your discussions to allow for divergent ideas and interests.
- Discuss the creative work of experts.
- Seek out the creative ideas of other educators.
- Make creativity a criteria on all assessments.
I am not going number this final one just because it deserves special attention. I started this post by listing what we as educators can do about creativity. We can:
- Allow it
- Encourage it
- Display it
- Recognize and reward it
- Develop it
- Discuss it
I will add one more. We also need to respect it and the students who demonstrate it. Remember that courage is a critical attribute of the creative individual. Fear of ridicule clamps a lot of mouths from offering a divergent opinion and keeps a lot of hands from designing something original. (I bet this happens in your staff meetings as well.) Research shows that “communities of creativity” are very effective in bringing out the creativity in everyone in them.
Do an honest assessment of how you personally respond to “wrong” answers, assumptions, or points of view. Are they immediately corrected or they investigated? Do you yourself acknowledge that every individual has a unique set of experiences, point of view, and problems that may be reflected in her work? Do you honestly believe the old adage “there’s no such thing as stupid question?” Do you always dig a little deeper before judging? I have to admit, these are all tough mindsets for me to practice!
A teacher’s respect and the respect she builds in her students is the most important element of a classroom that builds rather than destroys creativity.
What else can and should teachers do on an everyday basis in the classroom encourage creativity?