Opinion
Student Well-Being Opinion

Teachers, Don’t Let Anyone Tell You You’re Not Creative

Raising creative students calls for creative teachers
By Barbara Wood — August 03, 2017 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The three little pigs are hungry and call the wolf to see if he wants to come for dinner. Of course, their real motive is to eat him for dinner. They had invited him several times before, but he had always managed to escape. When he arrives, the pigs once again shove the wolf into the oven, put an apple in his mouth, and head to the grocery store to get potatoes to have with their roast wolf. The wolf flees the scene, another apple in tow. Discouraged by the wolf’s escape, the pigs give up on having roast wolf for dinner. One of the pigs asks the others if they feel like hamburger. The scene ends with his saying into the phone, “Hey, Mr. Cow, would you like to join us for dinner?”

BRIC ARCHIVE

Students in my 6th grade drama class created this fractured fairy tale a couple years ago. I was amazed at the group’s sophisticated, humorous, and creative result. In my 25 years as a drama teacher (now retired), I never ceased to be amazed at the endless creativity of my students.

Creativity—the process of having intuitive, imaginative, fresh, and original ideas, often involving insight, invention, and aesthetics—is a fundamental life force that needs to also be a fundamental focus of our education system. However, the dilemma in the past decade or more of the “21st-century approach” to education is that teachers and students have been subjected to an education system that is product-driven rather than process-driven. Teachers’ and students’ creativity has often been left behind in a data-driven scramble to get students to perform well on standardized tests. Thankfully, over the past few years as a tutor, I have noticed the education pendulum swinging back in the direction of a process-driven approach to delivering education, underpinned by creativity.

Infusing passion and creativity into education is beneficial to students, teachers, society, and the world. Tapping into individual creativity is a springboard for individual growth and wisdom. In short, creativity is an essential component of what it truly means to be educated. Sir Ken Robinson, renown for his work in the field of creativity, noted at a TED conference that education systems around the world are “educating people out of their creative capacities” by limiting the scope of education to only what’s in students’ heads.

Creativity is an essential component of what it truly means to be educated."

Being creative is even more essential to our existence than the traditional 3 R’s—reading, writing, and ’rithmetic. It is critical that we create learning environments that inspire individuals to grow creatively. As models for their students, educators must be allowed to express their own personal and professional creativity. If they themselves are not in touch with the creative process, it is unlikely that they will effectively ignite creativity in students.

In school, students are introduced to the learning process and to the socializing process but seldom to the creative process. Rather, teachers develop “creative” lessons ad hoc because creativity is not respected as an essential life skill. Creativity for its own sake needs to become an important part of a school’s curriculum, equivalent to reading, writing, math, and computer literacy. Schools need to set aside time during the day or week to focus on getting students’ creativity flowing, not as an extension of academic work. The focus of this endeavor should not be on evaluating students’ creativity or collecting data to demonstrate their growth.

School districts should hire creativity specialists, similar to the role of specialists for literacy, students with special needs, and the talented and gifted. Their function would be to develop creativity programs within schools at all levels, to help facilitate such programs, and to act as collaborators with teachers who implement these programs. Districts also need to offer educators professional development in nurturing their students’ creativity. Educators have had to deliver packaged curricula and take prescribed professional-development classes for so long that offering such classes would allow them to break out of their straitjackets. Teacher-training programs should also follow suit.

Several years ago, I offered my fellow educators one such professional-development course. We did a variety of activities to ignite personal creativity. We danced, sang, painted, drummed, played assimilation games, wrote, reflected, and embraced the creative process. We bonded from our opportunity to share spontaneously and enthusiastically, to be personally creative, and to laugh heartily—an amazing dynamic that carried over to the rest of our work.

Many of the participating high school and middle school teachers begged me to offer it again. They loved the relaxed, open atmosphere and camaraderie that had developed. Some said they felt deflated when the course finished. They found it therapeutic because it relieved stress and freed them from their everyday concerns. By igniting their own creativity, they felt more confident to stimulate creativity in their students. Some had come into the class claiming they weren’t imaginative, but left realizing that we all are. I realized after teaching the course just how often teachers’ individual needs are neglected.

To be creative, an individual must take an exclusive journey to the recesses of the soul. This journey includes facing fears, taking risks, making mistakes, taking responsibility, being committed, accepting successes (and failures), and embracing the joys of personal expression. Such a venture is what life and education should be about, adding depth, meaning, and understanding. Isn’t that what we should be striving for as a society? By making creativity the focus of education, we can put the fun back into what has been, in my professional opinion, a dysfunctional education system.

Events

English-Language Learners Webinar Helping English-Learners Through Improved Parent Outreach: Strategies That Work
Communicating with families is key to helping students thrive – and that’s become even more apparent during a pandemic that’s upended student well-being and forced constant logistical changes in schools. Educators should pay particular attention
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being Fewer Teens Appear to Be Vaping. How Schools Can Keep the Momentum
A handful of studies suggest that adolescent e-cigarette use dropped substantially during the pandemic.
7 min read
Image of E-cigarettes for vaping. Popular vape devices
Nijat Nasibli/iStock
Student Well-Being Quiz How Much Do You Know About the Needs of the Whole Child?
Answer 7 questions to see how much you know about the needs of the whole child.
Student Well-Being Flu Vaccinations Among Children Are Down. That Could Spell Trouble for Schools
The convergence of flu and COVID-19 infections could exacerbate student absences and staff shortages.
2 min read
An employee with the Hidalgo County Health Department holds out a roll of flu vaccine stickers that are used to verify who has been temperature screened Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2020, at the COVID-19 vaccination clinic on the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show grounds in Mercedes, TX.
An employee with the Hidalgo County Health Department holds out a roll of flu vaccine stickers that are used to verify who has been temperature screened at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Mercedes, Texas
Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald/AP
Student Well-Being Opinion The Case for Virtual Social and Emotional Learning
Can student social and emotional well-being be supported online? Rick Hess speaks with the founder of EmpowerU, which seeks to do just that.
6 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty