January 23 — 3:52 pm, 2012

Reviving creativity in the classroom

creativity art Photo: Harvey Finkle

A kindergarten student begins drawing a picture of God. Using various colors and shades, she draws a descriptive portrait of the divine. Her teacher soon approaches, looks at the drawing, and asks, “What are you drawing?” The child says “God” and the teacher responds, “But no one knows what God looks like.” The child responds, “They will in a minute!”

While I’m not sure this scene ever actually happened, my point is that all children have the potential for wondrous, revolutionary creativity. Once students enter the school system, it is often a struggle to keep that creativity alive. What can we do to support our students’ creativity?

The kindergartener in this scene is expected to retire in 60 years. No expert can definitely say what the world will look like in five years, let alone 60 years. Since no one knows for sure what the future holds, we have an opportunity to think creatively also – for the future that we imagine, what kind of education should students receive now?

Pablo Picasso once said that, “all children are born artists, the problem is to remain an artist once he grows up.” Our children become products of a national education agenda that prioritizes certain subjects and skills over others. We prepare students for agrarian or monotonous careers that require more systematic completion compared to intellectual creativity, and inside our classrooms, success is celebrated while failures are chastised – this is a perfect recipe for the creative destruction. Failure and mistakes are often necessary steps toward the path of innovation.

As teachers and educational leaders, let’s think about reviving creativity:

  • Stop making the child believe value comes to those who are correct. Sir Ken Robinson, an internationally recognized leader in the development of education, creativity, and innovation states that, “Children are not frightened to be wrong. If you are not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original.” It is through our mistake that many extraordinary discoveries have been made.

  • Embrace kids as kids and not as automatons. Most kids have lost the capacity of imagination when they become adults; this is because we are educating people out of their creativity. Information regurgitation for the purpose of a one-time exam serves the same purpose as forcing them through the system

  • Look for creativity in your own school practices. Many teachers, especially those in failing schools, are required to implement very structured curriculum. Normally, there are certain entry points for imaginative and creative moments in your lessons – albeit small!

According to a TED Talk by Sir Ken Robinson, UNESCO estimates that over the next 30 years more people worldwide will graduate from school than since the beginning of history. How do we, as teachers, school leaders, and policymakers, want to prepare our students to enter that world? 

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