Wednesday, 9 July 2014

We Can All Be Creative

How do we prepare our children for a world that is beyond our imagination? How do we craft a student’s learning journey towards a job that is yet to be created?

These are often asked questions and it is easy to trot out some glib responses. Drilling down into these conundrums it is clear that of course our children will need to know the basic skills of numeracy and literacy, but it is widely recognised that there are a collection of skills or dispositions such as perseverance, flexibility, questioning, curiosity, creativity, and optimism that are the ‘makers or breakers’ of achieving one’s potential in the 21st century.

Intelligence as we know it is not enough and the highly acclaimed ‘thinking skills guru’ Dr Edward de Bono believes that many highly intelligent people are poor thinkers.
If I had to pick one of the key skills or dispositions that will define the future, it would creativity. This is a scary thing as most adults don’t see themselves as creative. I am one of those slightly scared and insecure adults who have looked inward and decided that I don’t have too many creative bones in my body!

Traditional education has accidently discouraged or knocked children’s self belief in this area of creativity in a number of ways. The top down, chalk and talk, content focussed and testing regime have narrowed the curriculum. It is a truism to say, ‘what is tested is valued’. This is a strong implicit message to all learners, be it adult or children.

We have to ensure creativity and thinking skill development is a dominant part of the curriculum. Not only should it be totally integrated in the curriculum ensuring the learning tasks engage higher order thinking and age and stage appropriate ‘hard fun’, but right from pre-school, children need to explicitly know that their thinking and ideas have merit and value.  Take a subject like art as it is a prime example. Traditionally most children have received implicit and explicit feedback about their art related to how it looks and in many cases how it mirrors realism. Art is an expression of a child’s thinking and this is where the value should be put.
Part and parcel of promoting creativity and thinking is treating these skills as natural and important aspects of learning with children. Discussing these attributes and providing skill development and understanding adds enormous uplift in confidence and indirectly demonstrates to children that their thinking has merit and it is an important aspect of their development.  

Creativity needs to be broken down so children can see we all have the ability to succeed. According to cognitive psychologist Robert J. Sternberg, creativity can be broadly defined as "...the process of producing something that is both original and worthwhile." Creativity is all about finding new ways of solving problems and approaching situations. This isn't a skill restricted to artists, musicians or writers; it is a useful skill for people from all walks of life.” (from Kendra Cherry

Most creative achievements have come about through dogged determination. Without going into the detail there are some common ways to improve creativity in all of us and thus it makes sense for schools to make time to teach these skills and dispositions. Ideally schools will have an active programme teaching thinking strategies and infusing creativity and higher order thinking into every aspect of school life. The culture of any school needs to live and breathe these dispositions.

Arianna Rebolini  ( identified 10 habits of highly creative people giving many real life examples. Some of these habits or dispositions are surprising but most make a lot of sense and help break down the mystic of creativity.

Creative people:
·         Get moving. (busy schedules including exercise)
·         Take naps. (or meditate)
·         Day dream.
·         Collaborate.
·         Take risks. (willing to pursue unfamiliar territory etc)
·         Make and stick to routines
·         Explore.
·         Pay attention. (great observers and notice the smallest of detail)
·         Forgive their own bad work. (willing to make mistakes)
·         Take time to be alone. (reflective)

Imagine what is possible if children can learn and understand these habits at a young age! It is important that we ‘unpack’ what it means to be creative for our children so they can all see that with a bit of graft they too have something worthwhile to offer.

As the Principal of Wellesley I am pleased we are a school that values questions above answers, creativity above fact regurgitation, individuality above uniformity and excellence above mediocrity. We want to prepare our children to become brave new explorers in this exciting fast paced world.