In our schools – at least the more progressive ones – we tell children that we want them to be creative and that creativity is a vital skill to grow up with. However, I believe we don’t do nearly enough to explore with children what creativity is, where it comes from/ manifests and how a person can develop a higher quantity/ quality of creativity. It’s almost treated as ‘you’ll know it when you see it.’ Further, i think all too often, the actions of the adults in our schools frequently send conflicting messages. On the one hand children are told that creativity is a good thing, but on the other hand when they choose to be creative or to act creatively in the way of their choosing, this is actively discouraged or sometimes even punished.
The reality is that one person’s creativity can often sit uncomfortably with others. Creativity, by its nature doesn’t run along neat pre-set lines like a train running on tracks. Rather, it has a random and uncontrolled aspect to it and this is likely to be even more the case for a child within whom their creativity and it’s counter-balancing elements of self-control are still developing.
Another issue is that a person’s creativity requires an element of separation and distancing from others. The reality today is that the more progressive a school is, likely the more students are encouraged to be actively engaged with their peers through projects, group work or even pair work or peer tutoring. Introvert habits of isolating the self fro others are frequently actively discouraged. Here’s a very interesting article that explores the role of isolation and solitude in creativity.
Lifehacker – Is Solitude A Key Element Of Creativity?
It makes a number of references to the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and I would thoroughly recommend his book on creativity for anyone who wants to delve further in to this area.
I believe that, as in so many things, balance is the key. We need school premises and infrastructure that provides for both group and individual space and activity. We need to build the flexibility and balance in to timetables to ensure that students have the freedom to be with themselves, to explore inside as well as to work in groups and collaborate. And, we need educators who understand the balanced needs of both interpersonal activity and solitude. We need to actively help children to understand how this aspect of their mind works, the role and value of daydreaming and we need to respect when they open up and share the material of their daydreams. To acknowledge isn’t to agree.
My guess is that, right now, in most schools we’re probably doing a better job of the engagement and busy activity of projects and group work than we are of the solitary aspects of creativity. Both are needed to develop key citical skills for the Twenty First Century.
Filed under: Educators of tomorrow, Leadership, School, Teaching Practice | Tagged: creativity, group work, interpersonal skills, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, projects, solitude, twenty first century skills | 1 Comment »