One of the greatest fears attached to trying Arts Integration in the classroom is that teachers feel they are not “creative“. As I come to close out my year as the Arts Integration Specialist for one of the 50 largest school systems in the nation, I have discovered that this is the most common theme of resistance that I run into. Teachers know the statistics – that Arts Integration can increase student achievement in any targeted area by up to 10%, that it increases student engagement and attendance rises, that parents become more involved with an Arts Integrated school and that teacher satisfaction and engagement improves dramatically. They are eager to learn more – yet, when the rubber meets the road, they are often paralyzed with the fear that they are not creative enough to integrate the Arts into their classrooms.
Often, when I run into this wall, I simply ask teachers what they like to do for fun. Inevitably, I get answers like….
“Find DIY ideas on Pinterest” or
“Listen to music” or
“Gardening” or….the list could go on forever.
Guess what, folks? All of that stuff is “creative”.
I call this your Access Point. It’s the place where you can relax, enjoy what you’re doing, be completely in the moment. Ken Robinson calls this your Element. It’s the place where you naturally feel happy and connected to yourself and the world at the same time. When I hear people saying that they aren’t creative, I ask them to find their Access Point and use this to begin their journey into Arts Integration. To use what they are passionate about as a connection to make their teaching relevant.
Passion is the connector between intelligence and creativity.
You CAN and SHOULD have both. Creative people get a bad rap, you know. The term creative is often lumped in with other terms like “artsy” or “crafty” and people envision these creative types as running around wearing flowing bohemian dresses and singing Kumbaya or something. Others see “creative” types as people who get a free pass in life because they can’t help it – they’re creative. What’s sad is that this is not creativity at all.
These may be traits that some people have, but believe me, I know a lot of intelligent people who get a lot of free passes because they are “brainiacs” and I also know a lot of intelligent people who have very questionable fashion tastes as well. So it’s not one or the other. To understand creativity is to understand how to access the part of you that is open to possibilities you wouldn’t otherwise consider. No more and no less.
The other thing to understand about creativity is that it is not separate from being intelligent. The two worlds depend wholly upon each other. And the thread between the two is passion. When you are passionate about something – anything – you are committed to working it through. You are willing to be persistent and become excited over the smallest of victories as you pursue the passion. This invokes your mind to start opening up to the possibilities of where your passion will take you. This is the creativity part. But at the same time, it evokes many of the deeply embedded synaptic connections that are involved in highly intelligent thought. That’s the intelligence part. You cannot possibly be creative without also being intelligent and the common denominator is passion.
This is why Arts Integration is such a powerful teaching medium.
You are teaching through something that you are passionate about. Whether it be cooking or taking a photograph, all work is art is some respect. We all strive to create something new that says something – anything – to the world from our point of view. The only difference is the tool that you want to use. Once you begin to teach within your passion, you start to connect with your students. Students want to participate in something exciting and meaningful, which is exactly the words that describe passion.
So the lesson that begins as a way for you to connect the art of what you are passionate about to the living curriculum that you are teaching, becomes a lesson of significant meaning for each student that you teach this way. Arts Integration truly changes the whole culture of a class, a school, and a community because of its integral creative properties.
If you have ever wondered if you could try Arts Integration, I encourage you to take some time this summer to explore how you could connect your own passions and creativity into your classroom next year. Look through lessons on this site, discover the power of ArtsEdge and all it has to offer, take some professional development on how to teach an Arts Integrated lesson, or even just take some time to discover what passions may have lain dormant in you during the school year. I promise you that the cycle of creativity, passion and intelligence will be well worth the endeavor.
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.