Stifling Creativity

Okay, I am going to channel my inner Brené here and be vulnerable with you all, honesty time…I am a creativity stifler.  

This became glaringly obvious to me over the past few days.  Long story short, as a gift to my husband for Christmas I have planned a family holiday activity every day from December 1st – December 25th.  This has been incredibly fun and he (and my daughter) have LOVED the surprise of a different family “event” every night. That said, I have spent HOURS planning, preparing, and organizing everything for these activities, then readjusting the activity on a day when a schedule conflict pops up or when one of us has to work late, etc.. Throughout the events, I have found myself becoming frustrated with my husband as he doesn’t follow my “rules” for the activity.  You see, my husband is a creative, think outside the box type of person. During our activities, I articulate what the project/activity is, provide all the materials/supplies, then provide time to do the activity. (Sound familiar???…It is lesson planning!) Well, I have noticed that my husband seems to take my directions as more of a suggestion then uses the materials to do something similar, but not what he is “supposed” to do with them.  

Here are a few examples of what I mean:

ActivityHusband’s Interpretation
Hot chocolate bar with ALL the toppings you can imagine My envisioned goal – Drink the Hot Chocolate with toppings provided and enjoyMake coffee, drink half the cup of coffee THEN pour in my hot chocolate and use the toppings to make a mocha latte and enjoy
Use holiday stickers to create a Christmas portraitMy envisioned goal – Everyone use the stickers they were given to create their masterpiece on vertical pieces of paper Use not only his stickers, but stickers from my daughter and myself (that we weren’t using) to decorate his horizontal masterpiece
String popcorn to make a garland and hang outside for birds/squirrelsMy envisioned goal – Use the popcorn provided to string the popcorn and enjoy watching the birds/squirrelsLook to see if we have any Cheerios in the house to string Cheerios and popcorn and enjoy watching the birds/squirrels

Every activity in which my husband found himself a modification initially frustrated me, but I did my best to let it go and focus on the activity and joy I was finding from doing the activity the way it was supposed to be done.  Then I had an ah ha moment….

I am in the process of reading Kasey Bell’s “Shake Up Learning” and I came to Chapter 9: Unleash Creative Thinking.  Throughout this chapter, Kasey talks about how overly structured tasks/classes stifle creativity.  Was I stifling the creativity of my husband?  But more importantly, how many students had I stifled as a teacher?  How many teachers had I stifled as a principal? 

I immediately turned to my husband and apologized for the eye-rolls and snarky comments I had made during the activities that he didn’t do “my way”. Now if only I could go back and apologize to the students and teachers I have stifled throughout my career….

Sir Ken Robinson says, “Creativity is as important as literacy”, I don’t know a teacher who would say that literature should be down-played or that they don’t have time for literacy, so why don’t we have time to allow students to be creative and embrace the creativity in our students??  

Well, as educators we work very hard (understatement) to plan and organize our lessons, projects, activities, etc., we are required to envision what the end result will look like (UBD model); so, we might fear or feel that if a student’s learning doesn’t look like what we envisioned in the end, that we failed or that the project didn’t work or even worse, we may let our insecurities show and we may get upset that a student thought of something more beneficial or fun (with the same learning outcomes) because we worked so hard during the planning phase, we feel insufficient and that we aren’t effective teachers. (This was my insecurity as a wife and gift-giver with my husband making modifications 😊)

So how can we embrace creativity within our classrooms and in our students??  Here are a few  ways to help your students be more creative from informedED:        

Clifford, M. (2012, November 26). 30 Things You Can Do To Promote Creativity | Creative Learning Strategy. InformED. https://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/creativity/promote-creativity-in-your-classroom/

  1. Embrace creativity as part of learning – Take time to celebrate a student’s creativity, showcase this creativity with others. 
  2. Use the most effective strategies – Research shows that incorporating cognitive and emotional functioning tasks help promote creativity! Use arts, media-oriented, open-ended projects to help those creative juices flow.
  3. Think of creativity as a skill – Many like me, fear that by being creative I will be “wrong”, I prefer the script/model of “do this and you will get an A”.  Creativity not only needs to be embraced, but for some to be taught, take time to show and model that there is more than one way to do something and that it is okay.
  4. Establish expressive freedom – The classroom needs to be a safe place for students to take risks with their creativity, allow for flexibility and ask questions with more than one or no right answer!
  5. Encourage curiosity – Provide time for students to ask questions. Teaching through inquiry is a great way to spark interest in a topic, allowing students to ask questions and drive their learning which will open doors for them to be creative in finding answers and deepen their understanding of a topic as well.

Here is a short 2 min. video that shows the power of creativity when there is no correct answer!

So, I challenge you in 2021 – be creative, spark and celebrate creativity in others, embrace the messiness of creativity, take-risks and have fun!

Katie Algrim – Director of Innovative Professional Learning
(t):630-444-3044
(c):630-675-4447
(e):kalgrim@kaneroe.org

Katie Algrim – Director of Innovative Professional Learning
(t): 630-444-3044
(c): 630-675-4447
(e): kalgrim@kaneroe.org

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