Can Creativity be Taught?

Just for kicks, I took this Creativity Self-Assessment:

My results indicate that I am below the average for the typical score on creativity. Hmph!

What is creativity? How is it measured? Can someone who isn’t creative assess creativity?

Somehow, the vision of creativity is limited to a crazed crafter who has a propensity with a glue gun, scrap booking paraphernalia, and felt.  If someone creates something original, that person is deemed creative-right?  Well…not so much.  The norm for assessing creativity defeats the relative nature of creativity.

Ok-those of you who sat in a classroom, with 25 other kids-doing the same worksheet-for years..raise your hand.   Were your original thoughts acknowledged, or were you herded in with the masses?  Were you the existentialist who proved your individuality, or were you the group member who laughed at the existentialists?  It doesn’t matter what side you relate to.  Either way, you developed original thoughts and ideas that tempered your current personality.

I wasn’t knocking crafters earlier. It is remarkable what a person can create with a few materials and powerful visualization.  If MacGyver were an elementary school student, would his creativity have been a hindrance?  He would probably have been creating eraser cities in his desk with a bobby pins, gum, and toothpicks. He would be the kid reading books on Houdini, while ignoring instruction.  I believe he would be considered, “distractable”.

I often wonder how many creative kids are overlooked?

The fact is that the creative kids are the ones who don’t follow the norm.  When they are listening to a lesson on compound sentences, their minds wander to non-related connections. No, they aren’t listening and probably don’t know a thing about compound sentences.  However, their need to know about the universe leaves no room for the minutia of grammar.  I’m not saying that this isn’t frustrating to the teacher, especially with the demands of standardized testing.  But, I am beginning to believe that the test prep has stifled the creativity that innately drives educators.

“STOP questioning the world.  Just sit down and learn the standards!”

Many of the truly creative kids don’t see a point in the need for traditional academia.  That is why it is our job (as teachers) to engage these kids so that they can make a place for themselves in the world.  This process is exhausting.  We work with the delightful high-achievers who will do what they can to succeed.  If you look closely into any classroom, you will see the kids spinning the ruler on the pencil, while imagining the propeller on a helicopter.  Meanwhile, the rest of the class is distracted by the helicopter.  How do teachers handle this?

One misconception about creativity is that all those who are creative are often absent-minded and forgetful.  This is true for many, however if we broaden our perspective on what this really means, we will open our eyes to the true essence of creativity.  Some kids who  figure complex algorithms mentally, can create new ways of applying those algorithms.  During math instruction, almost daily, I have a child tell me a “new” way to do a problem.  How creative!

I had a colleague ask me if I thought creativity could be taught.  Before I had time to rationalize my answer, I answered-“MOST DEFINITELY”.  The argument is that either you have it or you don’t.  My thoughts were that many kids and people in general figure they aren’t creative because they can’t draw, play an instrument, or weave magical stories on a moment’s notice.  Isn’t evidence of original thinking an indicator of creativity?  Maybe it is more accurate to say that someone’s creativity can be found.

Yesterday,  I asked my class, “Do you think the Sycamore tree in Where the Red Fern Grows symbolizes any idea or theme in the story?

The silence, blank stares, and strange answers rippled through the room.  I told them their box lids were rapidly closing.  Come on out of the box and give me an original thought! Slowly, some reluctant hands appeared.  They responded with: strength; perseverance;  remorse (since main character was sad to have cut the tree down); faith, love, keeping promises, loyalty, etc…  The original thoughts were pouring out of all the kids!  I soon understood that no one answered because they were afraid of getting it wrong.  As soon as I said that there really couldn’t be a wrong answer (as long as it could be supported) the kids bought in.  Did I teach creativity of thought or did the kids find their own?  Sounds a bit like the chicken and the egg mystery.  Ten years ago, I would have probably stopped and asked another question.  I would have felt badly about asking something that was too difficult.  I guess I have developed a stubborn streak, because I wasn’t going to give up that easily.

Try the creativity test.  Do you agree with the results?


Practice What You Teach…

I am amazed by the brain.  I have researched brain-based learning and Multiple Intelligence Theory. I wrote a  thesis averring that when children know how they learn, their motivation levels for academics increase.

I told my class that when we learn new skills or concepts, our brains create more synapses.  I explained that learning something new can be uncomfortable.  I compared learning to exercising and using new muscles that are first sore, but later become stronger.  I may have possibly imparted great wisdom that day.

The easiest way to conceptualize this is that there are more synapses in the human brain than there are stars in the known universe. Mem­ory and learn ing occur when the neurons and synapses reorganize and strengthen them selves through repeated usage.

I  have said time after time that the MINUTE we feel that we have a hold of this job, the rotation of the earth changes.  All my brain talk seemed silly, since I was the biggest brain hypocrite around. Where were my synapses? Where was my discomfort in the new material that I should be learning? My synapses failed me.  Therefore, I probably shouldn’t talk about  them.

Another fun fact about me is that I have a difficult time with change.  As a child, when my mother would rearrange the furniture-I would become frenzied.  A hair cut may have just put me in therapy.

After school, two weeks ago, names were being called on the intercom.  The buzz was that if your name was called, your grade assignment has changed.  My name was called……

What? Me? Change? Huh?

I walked into the office to see the three administrators smirking just enough to make me more paranoid than usual.

Remember in my last post I wrote, “Last time I checked, I didn’t teach Kindergarten?”  I eat my words.

I will be teaching Kindergarten and first grade gifted.  I will be doing other wonderful things with literacy and 5th grade math as well.

I have wanted to teach gifted for years, so I am thrilled to have this opportunity.  But it all happened so suddenly.

I returned to my room to catch my breath.  I looked at the boo-coos of 5th grade resources staring me down.  The stress of the classroom move smacked me in the head.  The hideout under my desk was looking good.

Last night, I  dreamed that I was being observed while teaching the five and six-year olds. My evaluation said that I the vocabulary I was using was too difficult for them to understand. What do you mean? I can’t discuss the thematic relevance of The Odyssey with first graders?

Something strange happened-the synapses in my brain became audible.   I would have to learn new curriculum, create extension activities for very little people, and for the first time in eight years-not have a home room.  Snap, spark, pow…

In my stupor, I filled out the application for the specialist program in teacher leadership.  It was like the automatic writing that people do when they have been taken over by other entities.  It was too easy.  They can even use my MAT scores for admission! Yes, I skirted the GRE by taking the Millers Analogy Test.

What? Classes begin the third week of  May? Spark, crackle, boom…

Later in the week, I went to drama rehearsal.  Again, Daniel came to help.  Since I am completely directionally challenged, the blocking is a conundrum for me. The synapses fired as I tried to envision stage directions. KABOOM!

I’m grateful for my brain sparks.  I continually research and read educational material, but the sparks had dwindled.  I didn’t follow my own research-based words. I am happy to say that I am incredibly uncomfortable and thrilled to be in a small panic.

See, this is what I get for being a know-it-all about the brain.