Lately, I’ve been reading and watching everything I can get my hands on by Sir Ken Robinson.
I have been profoundly touched by his poignant and funny speeches his has given at TED and by his ideas on creativity. If you haven’t seen the videos, please take a moment to watch them. They are fantastic! One of the things that totally struck me was his quote that “even Shakespeare had an English teacher”.
I can’t seem to get that point out of my mind for weeks now. As teachers, our whole job is to open our students up to learning and providing them with the tools they need in order to do so. What tools could an English teacher have given Shakespeare? For that matter, how did that English teacher open Shakespeare up to learning?
Maybe it’s not always our job to point the way.
Maybe part of our job is instead to recognize when the student knows the way and needs room and opportunity to follow their own path. I think this is quite possibly one of the hardest jobs of a teacher. It requires a certain humility and forward thinking to do this part of the job well. Admitting freely that we don’t know everything and that our students have important contributions to make is a total shift in the hierarchy that is current education.
This type of thinking requires us to acknowledge that creativity cannot fit inside of a box. You can’t teach creativity through linear methods. Creativity moves, it dances, flows, experiments, splatters, sings. It does all of this and that is impossible to hold within a single desk inside of a classroom.
So when a child in your room is humming while working, try to refrain from telling him to be quiet.
He may be the next Einstein (who was also known to hum). If another student keeps jumping up and down and can’t sit still, try to create a space in your room for her to do that. She may be the next Anna Pavlova. This is challenging because in college, we are trained in courses like “Classroom Management” and “Discipline with Dignity”. Everything in our teacher training either deals with reading and math objectives or with discipline. There are very few institutions that teach us how to foster creativity.
Sir Robinson also alleges that, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’re not prepared to be creative.” Perhaps the best way for us to learn how to teach creativity is to be prepared to be wrong about our current teaching practices. I’m not suggesting that all of our current teaching practices are invalid. I do, however, believe that we can adjust our current practices with some openness and willingness to allow creativity to flow.
Maybe Shakespeare’s English teacher didn’t teach him anything that year. Maybe the teacher was the inspiration for him to continue exploring writing and languages. Whatever the case, I’m sure the teacher never forgot Shakespeare as a student. And for that, the teacher was forever changed. So it is with creativity in our classroom.
When we experience it, we are forever changed. For good.
Susan Riley is the founder and President of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and Arts and the Common Core.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.