For years scholars and academics to CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and everyone in between have attempted to define creativity. What it is, what it looks like, how to chase it.
In schools, educators lament that the curricula and standards are inhibiting teachers’ ability to be creative, teach creatively and think creatively.
I argue it’s not the curricula. It’s not the standards. It’s the teachers themselves that are the roadblock.
Recently I have had the opportunity to speak with teachers about their personal beliefs and dispositions with regard to their students. I asked on a simple inventory, “How are you like your students?” and “How are you unlike your students?”
An overwhelming majority all commented on the notion that their students are more creative than they are. In fact, some of the verbiage included:
“My students think creatively. I do not.”
“They are all way more creative than I am.”
“My students do things in ways I would never think of doing because they are more creative.”
It’s a term that can invoke an extreme uncomfortable feeling in teachers, especially during a time where schools are pushing more innovation and more creativity. Teachers are quick to judge themselves without a true appreciation of what creativity means (or could mean!) for them.
If you have not read the book Launch:Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student authored by A.J. Juliani and John Spencer, it is a must read. Aside from the framework the book suggests for ensuring learners are moving through a creative and innovative design process (which is laid out so perfectly for any educator that wants to ensure creativity is pervasive in their classrooms!), these gentlemen clearly allay any fears teachers may have about not being creative.
Juliani and Spencer advocate, “There is no single creative type” and further suggest that schools rely on the term creativity to describe an artful experience. It’s true right? Don’t many educators support this notion by demeaning most creative efforts as “fluff?”
The authors of Launch: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student (the must purchase book for all the doubting creative souls!—and those of us that want creativity to be purposeful and a foray into innovation in our classrooms) assert that we all are creative and can accept that we are all creative once we understand our own individual approach to creativity.
According to Juliani and Spencer, perhaps your approach to creativity is that of an artist, a geek, an architect, an engineer, a hacker or a point guard. Or maybe you’re like me and you are a mish mosh of these approaches. Or maybe your approach is contextual depending on the desired outcome, the people you’re working with or just your general mood.
Identifying how we approach creative opportunities is the first step in creating (there’s that term again!) classrooms that are a stage rife with creative conversations, creative lessons and creative processes which all have the potential to lead to innovation.
Creativity is personal. No matter how you find yourself approaching creative tasks the approach is your own. We are originals by the nature of our being. Creativity becomes a habit. Whether you are curious or questioning or innovative or passionate, these are all tributaries to creativeness. If you practice any of these attributes they become an intentional part of your thinking and thus, your teaching.
We need to shift our perspective from asking ourselves, “Am I creative?” to “How am I creative? In what ways do I use a creative process?” It’s easy when thinking about creativity to immediately focus on our deficits instead of our strengths. But, what if the deficits, when thinking about creativity really are strengths? For example, are you a daydreamer? In the creative realm, you might just be an intense thinker (thinking IS a creative process, right?) Do you have that quirky, obtuse sense of humor? That’s creative. You may sense that making decisions is a challenge for you. Perhaps you are open-minded (see what I did there?) Maybe you are insecure, perhaps the creative twist on that is you are sensitive, a characteristic that allows you to empathize and use your intuition to solve problems.
So really …
If we shift our perspectives on what creativity is with a broader scope that goes beyond crayons and paint and artful performances, we start to see the pattern of creativity in everything that we do. Imagine the freedom our classrooms and our school buildings (and more importantly the people within them) will experience if we each are able to harness creativity and commit to the daily expression it can provoke.