ejournal 6 / module 3c
What is interesting about the discussion of creative teachers and teaching for creativity is that the overwhelming majority of school curricula and structures obstruct and discourage creativity. School curricula are designed to standardize and regulate student progress on a prescribed developmental education path. At age five, students should be showing greater ability in representing ideas and thoughts using words and pictures. At ten, students should be thinking more abstractly and able to employ metaphors and work with fractions. With specific achievement goals in mind, large class sizes, and great variation in student ability, teachers may focus on proficient generic performance standards. How does creativity fit in when the educational establishment has fixed expectations?
As noted by Sternberg, creative individuals don’t permit their creativity to be stifled by an unsupportive environment and teachers are at liberty to interpret the curriculum and apply it in creative ways in the classroom. Still, schools should be fostering creativity in their students and staff through design, flexibility in scheduling, and forums. By transforming the learning space to be more open, flowing, and versatile, students and staff can interact and think more creatively. Re-imagine a classroom without rows of little desks, a blackboard in the front and a coatroom in the back. I don’t mean schools need to fund gimmicky, futuristic architecture, but the factory-style approach to education is dated and doesn’t promote the ideals and creative needs of the next generation. The school environment should reflect the values of innovation, originality, and creativity that society hopes for (but usually doesn’t see). Who is looking for the next generation of business leaders, inventors, and politicians to be really good at following directions and raising their hands? I would hope no one, and that it is clear to see that fostering innovation and creativity in schools propels society forward.
I think there is a lot to be said for block scheduling in high school, in which a student takes two or three courses intensely for one term, and two or three different courses intently for the next term. Students and teachers alike are able to probe deeper in the content area and have greater opportunity for long-term and intensive projects and research. Such scheduling allows for more creative assignments, as a lot more can be achieved in a two-and-a-half hour class versus a fifty-minute class. Especially with older students, block scheduling can be very effective in promoting creativity in teachers, who can in turn inspire their students. Student interest can have greater play in directing class activities and instruction.
Furthermore, creative and original thinking could be fostered through open forums and workshops. In my high school, we had a monthly forum featuring local professionals debating a controversial issue. Students attended (some out of enjoyment and others for extra credit) and teachers wanted to be there because the discussions were lively and interesting. Topics could be local or global, ranging from eating local, seasonal food to immigration policy to modern-day slavery. Workshops could be another effective way in getting students involved in new and diverse skill sets and ways of thinking. Workshops could feature skills and subjects not offered as school courses and allow students (and teachers) to explore new interests, such as baking or computer coding. Local businesses could host or sponsor one-time introductory workshops.
These changes do not have to be made overnight. They could be enacted as opportunities for shifts in budget or the development professional relationships present themselves. My point is schools should be actively seeking these changes for the sake of developing creativity in students and staff. Through the development of a more creative environment, staff can inspire each other and students to explore innovative and original interpretations of the curriculum.