A blog about imaginative learning
I hesitate to use the word “teach” the creative process, because a picture appears in my head of a teacher standing in front of a class explaining the process of creativity. This is the opposite of what I would like to talk about in this short write up on this ever elusive process-even the word process is not quite the word. In fact the only words in my title which work are “the” and “creative,” and I guess that is appropriate since that is the end goal isn’t it? To help these young kids be the creatives--to help them experience the moment of creativity--a moment which can shape the way they work, the way they think, interact with others, and their vision of life. So, it’s an important topic, and I want to get the title right. So forget the title, and let’s move on.
Creativity is a wonderful word. Cynics might exclaim that it’s overused and I agree. But I think it is important for anyone working in the realm of creativity to contemplate what this peculiar human gift is.
I use the word wonderful because the creative process begins with wonder. It begins with a sort of seeing, hearing, or feeling that comes to us from without. And yes I mean from without. There are some out there that would like to relegate the muse to the closed off room of our subconscious, but I think it’s more like a portal of our inner world with something other, something from without, and yet is intimate with our within. Right! We sense something outside--something that resonates in our inner world, like an echo in the valley of our imagination that is a distant call rousing us to an awakening….
It often begins with an idea, an image, a sense, a sound, a word. It is hard to describe and quantify the creative process. It is mystical. And that is why it is so often forgotten in education. Education is run by adults seeking to make educational businesses work, and businesses need quantifiable results, which means nice and neat content, lists, numbers, and tests. However, what continually baffles the minds of researchers in education is how creative genius so often occurs outside the classroom.
It is on the borderlands of the system, or in the in between that so many creatives find their muse. So, the question is how does a teacher foster a creative atmosphere that is actually good for creative work? Everyone agrees that creativity and innovation are vital, and yet so often the places where kids are supposed to learn are not amenable to the creative process. Here are some ideas…but, this will be an ongoing topic, just as creativity is inexhaustible, so I will just mention a few ideas, and revisit this over and over again.
In theatre, the director calls upon the actors to imagine a situation. I remember asking a group of kids to pretend like they were looking over a cliff and suddenly a dragon rises before them. The exercise is supposed to help them express an emotion physically by imagining they actually see the dragon. There was one girl whose eyes were so locked on the imaginary creature that you were drawn to her eyes, and you believed that she was actually looking at something. One important aspect of fostering the creative process is helping the young to strengthen their imaginations. You can’t act if you can’t see the scene before you. It all begins with seeing the invisible. So many great ideas took shape in the imaginations of human beings, and many great things happened because those humans followed through on their imaginative ideas and made them come into being--they made them real. This is an almost God-like power that we have, and that is why the creative process is a bit on the mysterious side, and yet utterly important in the education of the young.
Fostering the creative process means inspiring your students to see before them something so awe inspiring, that they enter into that realm for a time. So one very important step is the set up: how are you preparing your group to enter into this realm of wonder. What are you showing them? What story are you telling? Is there an image, a scene from a movie, a sound? I once heard a magician say that he much prefers his audience to say “wow!” than ask “how?” He was getting at the idea of wonder. First you must wow your students, opening up for them a vision of something interesting, so that they will naturally want to learn about it.
The energy of an inspired group of kids ready to learn is palpable--you can feel it. But you can also feel the apathy of a group when there is no magic present. The teacher can be present because it’s his/her job, or they may just be trying to get through content they are supposed to cover. But if there is no plan to wow them, inspire, to get their imaginations going, then there will be no creative atmosphere. Maybe we should just not use the word “teacher” since it conjures up associations of boredom and listlessness. I think Guide or Tutor are better. Or maybe even Animateur!
Fostering creativity in a group is difficult but the taste of creative work will refine their sensibilities so that they will yearn for meaningful creative work for the rest of their lives. They will have a memory of a time when they were inspired, and there was something deeper they were trying to accomplish. This will stay with them and form them as human beings.
Besides inspiring their imaginations with the wow, a creative atmosphere must be a place where the students understand and are inspired by a worthwhile end goal. The end goal needs to be something that they can perform or hold up and say look what we have done, or I have done.
The other element of teaching creativity is to foster a spirit of sincere and charitable openness-a place where the students feel like they can express themselves, their thoughts, humor, ideas, emotions. Though many think the creative is the loner who finds his inspiration in the midst of a suffering lonely life, it is more often the case that creatives thrive in a culture where art and creative thinking is part of life. But fellowship in creativity ought to be its own article.
These are just some ideas to consider. Creativity is that gift we have to bring new insights and ideas into this world. Imagination is the place inside where who we are mixes with the stuff of this life, and something new is born. The two are the most powerful gifts we have and are vital to education-and yet so often they are not at the center of teaching. What if we could focus in on the best ways to inspire imagination and creativity? What would education look like? That’s really what this blog is about.