Teaching is a creative profession. It is not just delivering a set of curriculum objectives but to mentor, stimulate, provoke and engage. Yet so often we see students bored. Creativity is the key to breaking the monotony! Creative teaching is not just about art or the arts teachers, anybody can do it, in any classroom, for any subject. At its core is the creative re-rethinking of the curriculum and how to meet the students’ needs, trying to make the activities as varied as possible in location, and resource-rich to gain 100% student involvement. There’s a Creativity Quiz below. Have fun and try it out.
What is creative teaching?
Firstly, it’s not just art or music or drama or some such arty ‘creative’ thing. Sir Ken Robinson, the great advocate for creativity and creative teaching states that “Creativity draws from many powers that we all have by virtue of being human. Creativity is possible in all areas of life . . . And like many human capacities, our creative powers can be cultivated and refined” Ken Robinson, 2015, Creative Schools.
Is it true, that only special people are creative? Well, I’m not very special, and yet I’m very creative, so folk say. I believe all great teachers are creative. It doesn’t matter what subject you teach, it’s really more the way you do it. Also, there’s no one special or ‘right’ way, and it can be different for different kinds of teachers – it can work for your style as well as mine. Another core thing is to be real, to be authentic. Students know when you are real; they know without thinking when you’re genuinely making teaching and learning into a fun experience.
Education is based on conformity. The system was set up in an industrial society in a different century, a different world. Industrial factories run on mechanised systems with precision. This was adopted into the school system, with timetables, schedules, and policies. Now we have forty minute blocks of time were, but why?. Classroom spaces were labeled with age levels with desks and chairs in rows and woe betide anyone who tried to change it. – I do!
BUT, people are not machines that get turned on and off at certain times. What if workers were told they had to move every 40 mins because it was good for you? There would be a walkout but teachers and students must conform to this. Humans do not like conformity we are all uniquely different. There is not one of us the same unless we have an identical twin.
Why do students not want to go to school?
The common reasons students don’t want to go to school were reported by Business Insider Australia from a recent report from America’s Promise Alliance.
The highest 20-30% reasons were: failing too many classes, boredom, becoming a caregiver, the school wasn’t relevant to my life, no one cared if I attended, and I was held back. Jane Caro writes “A quarter of Australia’s young people are not finishing school. This is the appalling legacy of our wilful neglect of our most disadvantaged kids, (‘School Funding: Stop subsidizing the haves and start investing in the have-nots’ from The Drum, Oct 2015).
We certainly can’t change the system. But, in our classrooms, each one of us can make a difference if we want to. There are alternative schools who are making a difference and the one point of difference is tailoring learning to each student. Yes, we are directed by the Australian Curriculum to differentiate and I believe this is pointing us in the right direction but with the mountain of standardised testing to be done, this limits the time to differentiate. Testing is important but it should not dominate our teaching.
Creativity is the Key
According to a major IBM 2010 survey from 60 countries and 33 industries worldwide, chief executives believe that creativity is the most crucial factor for future success. They said we need people who think differently but kids come out of school who cannot think for themselves. There are hardly any standardised testing in Finland and no drop out rates of high school students. They individualise teaching and learning and engage the student’s creativity. Finland also has a high respect for teachers and make sure they have lots of support and good professional development.
Creativity is the key and the ability to step outside the box. Take a risk and put your imagination to work – this is creativity. Think how you might do things differently to get the results you desire. If you are not willing to make any mistakes you will kill creativity. I love to teach, it is a passion with me so it never feels like work. It makes me explore what is best for each student in my class. I just can’t help it. I’m not against learning skills. Students have got to learn to the three Rs but we all learn best when we’re excited about something, don’t you think?
Sir Ken Robinson (2010) in his TED Talk video below – Do Schools Kill Creativity? – stated “My contention is that creativity is as important in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status”. What can we as teachers do?
We can make a difference
Teaching requires creativity not just knowledge of your subject/s. Students need to want to learn, so I spark my students’ imagination and once its ignited I let them loose. That is I let them explore in whatever way they like. If it means they need to curl up on a bean bag to think – so be it. If they need to sit on a high stool at the high cafe table I encourage it. Whatever it takes.
Once ignited you can’t stop their enthusiasm, creativity is the key, you just blow it gently, to keep it burning. Letting pairs or groups of students work together and teach one another.
We can, make a difference. It may be only one classroom at a time but as Mother Teresa said, ‘The entire ocean is made up of drops. We need to be sure we look after our own drop’.