I ran the One Sentence Project with my class this year and, not surprisingly, all my kids are going to make massive, earth-shattering changes to our world. I have a class of 25 zealous difference makers. Every class everywhere has the same. But why does it seem like as you get older answering these questions become tougher?
All of us have passions, and all of us start out believing that we can change the world for the better. The problem is we lose the most important aspect of what makes us potential world changers, and that’s creativity. We can’t allow this to happen to our kids. What this project showed me is that we all have deep creative desires and we, as teachers, need to help our students delve into them.
So what is creativity? Well, to me it is the act of creating something valuable for the world to see, but more importantly for the creator to relish in. I believe that passion and creativity are directly related and that both need to be present to ensure engagement. Furthermore, if creativity, passion and engagement are not present then the curriculum and the classroom become boring. So, in other words, a classroom needs to have both an environment and a student-centred, flexible curriculum to allow creativity to happen. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done, as the ‘regular’ classroom that has yet to move into the twenty-first century tends to zap the creative powers from these budding superheroes.
The moment a child steps onto school grounds situations that temper creativity are bombarding the child. Peer pressures and worrying about self-image often does not allow the student to step out their shell, but rather compel the child to stay discreet to avoid being vulnerable. The classroom is not any better. Timelines, preset criteria, bell schedules, not to mention teachers, can all contribute to the suppression of creativity. So how do we combat this? How do we respond to a student who says, “I’m not a creative person”?
Too often we take the onus to help kids find their creativity. Don’t! Yes, focus on getting your students to take risks and creating an environment that is as close to judgment-free as possible. But here is my advice on the trying to lead your class, “Try Less.” Model, guide and then get out of the way!
Tell that child who claims to not be creative that creativity is more evident in some and hides in other, but we all have it. If he looks down to the ground and softly shakes his head, just remind him of all the amazing things he created during Centres back in kindergarten. Remind the child of the pure joy felt after building the world’s best laser-shooting Lego car, and then give the student a pen and paper and ask him to write all the things he remembers being happy creating. Move away and let his mind go back into play mode, or in other words creative mode. See, the only unique contribution we make in this world is born out of creativity. But the kicker is it is on the individual to find and unleash it, not the teacher.
I would never tell a teacher to not try at their job, but maybe, just maybe trying less will make the student try more. And moreover, once a child finds his inner creativity, watch out world because nothing motivates ones learning more than feeling intrinsically creative. So teachers, if you want these kids to be world-changers, maybe try less and get out of their way.