The Wicked Problem

When you look back to the start of your education journey, doesn’t it begin with fun? So much emphasis was placed on play learning and exploring the creative. We began with markers, paints, colored pencils, and were encouraged to discover new colors using crayons because there could always be more colors than Crayola’s 308 colors.

My school box was more like a creative toolbox when I was in first and second grade. I worked with colored paper, scissors, and tape to construct things that only existed in my creative brain. And then sadly as I moved up in grades, instead of adding to my creative toolbox, I was removing my precious items and replacing them with black and blue pens, mechanical pencils, and the only thing of color was now our highlighters that emphasized the works of others.

Remember when mistakes never really existed? We worked with the oddly shaped circle we drew when really we meant to draw that perfect circle, because we made it work. It seems that that attitude also disappeared and was replaced by white outs, erasers, and shame when we made errors. Even look at the methodology of teaching through the years. Teachers are so much more creative at the lower levels than they are at the upper levels. It almost seems like creativity is not celebrated as we get older. I like to incorporate creativity in learning and think it is a valuable tool but I do meet resistance from colleagues, but even more so from my students.

There are a couple of difficult poems that we study throughout the year and when we study one  poem in particular, I move all the desks and cover the floor with sheets of white paper and throw crayons, markers, and colored pencils all over the floor. Students are invited to use whiteboard markers to write on the boards, the windows, and even the cabinets. The only rule is that they cannot write any words and they need to draw things from the poem or inspirations from the poem. It takes them about ten minutes to get out their complaints and figure out how and where to start as if there was a “right” way do this. As the hour comes to an end, students are excitedly working through their pictures, engaging their creative brains, and when we discuss and interpret the drawings, its amazing to see the depth of learning and knowledge crafted by creativity.

Take a look at some of the statistics on this wicked problem of creativity in education and the world:

  • 1 in 4 believe they are living up to their creative potential. Now this number should be higher than that. Ideally everyone should believe they are living to their creative potential. Think about your students. If you a class of 32 students, only 8 of them feel like they are living up to their creative potential. 8? We can do better than that.
  • 75% of people feel pressured by production rather than creativity. We live in a culture that celebrates product, the end goal, and there is too much emphasis on getting things done and getting it done in a timely manner.
  • 80% of people think creativity is critical for economic growth. Many articles in business publications have shared that they need creative brains to set themselves apart from their competition, whether its for a product or marketing. Fresh ideas sell and innovation comes from creativity.
  • Similar to that, 2 out of 3 people believe creativity is valuable to society.
  • But 6 out of 10 feel that education stifles creativity.
  • Our current education practice need to be shaken up, woken up, reinvigorated and we need to amp up on creativity. One way? Use technology. 6 in 10 says that technology inspires creativity.
  • Look at the trend of this study. The projections show that creativity is our future. We need to explore, encourage, and foster creativity and make sure our students are well equipped for the future that is seeking creative thinkers to institute change and innovation.

So teachers, won’t you join me on this adventure to awaken our own creativity and in doing so awakener the creativity of our students? Because in the words of Robert Frost, “I am not a teacher, but an awakener.”

 

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