Monday, April 1, 2013

Teachers: Keep Creativity Alive!

"OK, class, take this worksheet and pass it back, " groans my 11th grade history teacher. She continues, "Once you finish that worksheet, complete the forty review questions at the back of your chapter, o.k."

I roll my eyes, and think, "Could this class be any worse!" As I begin my work, I notice that my friend Matthew is whispering something to Troy. "What is he saying?" I wonder. Other kids start to pick up on it, and begin talking. Soon, the entire class is talking, passing notes, and wondering aimlessly around the classroom. The teacher, sitting at her desk, begins to read her latest Harlequin romance novel. "Oh geez, what do I do now? Do I keep working despite the fact my teacher seems to care less if I do, or do I join in and find someone to talk to?" I think nervously to myself.

This situation played out in my high school classes time and time again. Now, this was in 1990's, so maybe it was just a result of the times. Also, my class was known for having many trouble makers, and apathetic students who didn't care, or at least that is what the teachers told us. So, maybe that is why the teachers took so little effort in planning creative lessons. I guess it will always remain a mystery. However, I can say that it ruined me at the time. I became totally disengaged in classroom learning. I gave up, for the most part. My only saving grace was music. I played in the band. As a top band student, I was able to travel all over the United States, marching in parades, playing in beautiful symphony halls. My band teacher, was a teacher of excellence, and that is why I thrived.

Once I got to college, I began to love learning again. Constructing and creating were the norm. There were no more bubble sheets. Almost all the classes required essay writing. Yes! Always loving to write I was in heaven. We were required to read varieties of interesting texts. Of course, chapters out of the textbook, but also novels, movies, and short video clips to supplement the textbook. My love of learning was sparked again, and I am happy to say that it has continued.

As a first year teacher, one of my biggest goals is to keep creativity alive, and for my students to love learning! Does this mean that students never use worksheets or textbook questions? Of course not! However, they must be used at the right times and for the right purposes.

So, how do we, as teachers seeking excellence, foster creativity in the classroom?

Well, first we make a vow to ourselves and to our students. That vow is to always plan effective, interactive lessons that will keep our students engaged and excited about learning the content. Planning cannot be overlooked. Lack of planning is what leads to mundane, boring textbook lessons. We must keep our personal standards high! Often, I will ask myself, "Will this activity or lesson demonstrate excellence to my students?" If the answer is "no" then I must change tactics. We must also ask ourselves, "Will this activity or lesson bring out excellence in our students?" Try and visualize their reactions to the lesson and plan accordingly. If the best material for the lesson is a worksheet, ok, great, but make sure that other content rich, engaging activities are built around with it.

Secondly, we must foster creativity into our own daily lives. Recently, I watched several videos on the TED channel about creativity. The speakers lectured on the fact that our own creativity becomes inhibited as we age. We begin, as toddlers, ready for any possibilities, and options of how to create. Sitting with our fellow toddlers, we cut and paste, procure masterpieces with our finger paints, and enjoy endless hours constructing homes with Lincoln Logs. As we get older, year after year, the creativity can slowly chip away. We become inhibited by what other classmates think, or by that one teacher or parent who laughs at our wonderous creation. Devastated, we hang up our creative hats, and say, "never again." As teachers, seeking excellence, we must fight the desire to hang it up, and strive to restart our own creative juices. This can be done in a variety of ways, but I would suggest that we practice being creative in something that reflects the content area we teach. For example, blogging helps me to keep my writing fresh, and makes me continually use the writing process weekly.

Check out this link:

Finally, as teachers seeking creativity in the classroom, we must create a safe learning environment. As a middle grades educator, I realize that students are constantly bombarded with social stresses. Everyday, they have to watch their steps whether it be sitting in the gym before homeroom, transitioning between classes, or eating in the dreaded lunch room. There are many personal threats that they face everyday, and teachers must be sensitive to that by making their own classrooms as safe as possible. Rules must be enforced, bullying cannot be allowed, and teachers must value all students as individuals. By creating a safe environment, students will feel less inhibited, and be more likely to create whether it be writing, constructing, or inventing.

Furthermore, this need for safety is also required in today's workplace. The following video illustrates this point. Teachers, seeking excellence, must nurture creativity in the classroom to ensure that our content relates and prepares students for the future workplace.

In conclusion, teachers, let's shout, "Carpe Diem!" Seize the day, and create!

Tim Brown: Tales of Creativity and Play

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
Mahatma Gandhi

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