"How Do We Celebrate Creativity?" by Interim Director of the Middle School Colette Finley
The other night I found myself fully entrenched in the TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson titled “Do schools kill creativity?” The video was recorded in 2006 and is one of the most viewed TED talks of all time, with more than 38 million views. Throughout the discussion, Robinson argues that creativity is just as important as literacy in today’s world, given the fact that kids will enter the workforce in pursuit of jobs that do not presently exist. He worries that the current school system has created a structure in which students are told exactly how to think and in which those students who master this structured environment are highlighted and rewarded, while creativity is rarely celebrated. In addition, Robinson highlights the importance of “educating the whole being” as a way of promoting children to explore their passions and take risks.
As we in the middle school embark on the many events that mark the culmination of the academic year, these thoughts left me pondering about whether we properly promote creativity through our many coming initiatives. Between Archival Print, Solar Car, 'Round the World, and Shakespeare Breakfast, it’s my belief that exploration and recognition of students’ creativity and imagination is alive and well within the friendly confines of the middle school. The flexibility in our curriculum and intimate setting allows for more risk-taking. Furthermore, the talk provided the connection between relational teaching and creativity. The focus on educating the whole being is at the forefront of the Nobles experience. Teachers who interact with students in the classroom, out on the athletic field, and onstage create deeper, richer connections. These relationships so often facilitate discussions that culminate with teachers encouraging students to promote originality. In addition, we use these relationships as avenues to push students to explore passions, irrespective of how those interests may be stigmatized in our society.
That said, we continuously look to improve and seek new approaches in order to further promote creativity. While in South Africa this March break with a group of Nobles students, I was inspired by our visit to the African Leadership Academy (ALA). For those who are unfamiliar with ALA, it is a school that recruits students from all over the African continent to come for a two-year experience that prepares them for college and to become the next generation of leaders in Africa. ALA augments the traditional academic curriculum by teaching entrepreneurship via a BUILD model. Students first need to Believe that they have the power to change the world around them, Understand the community they hope to serve, Invent viable solutions, Listen to feedback from peers and users, and then Deliver these solutions. This provides the scaffolding necessary for a creative process. Through their BUILD model, students are challenged to hone and focus on entrepreneurial skills that will prepare them for an ever-changing world. Perhaps this process could help our students navigate these pending projects that allow for creative flexibility.
Personally, it is my goal to be more reflective at work and in my class, which should generate more time for imagination and creativity. I find myself contemplating transformational approaches to things we have done in the middle school for years, but only when I find time to clear my mind of the day-to-day requirements. Is it because my brain finally has a chance to stop, reflect, and process? Our ever-increasingly, over-programmed society adversely affects our ability to think outside the box. It is so important for us to create time for our students to sit and reflect. I firmly believe that boredom can create the best avenue for imagination. I heard from a colleague a few years back that the best way for her to prepare for writing a long paper was to go for a walk. She let herself explore various ideas in her head, away from all distractions. The ability to ruminate in the unknown can be uncomfortable for a middle school student, yet important for the creative process. How can we get them to be more comfortable with this?
How do we celebrate creativity? This is an important question for us to continually ask ourselves.