19 February 2012

Stop Squashing Creativity in Education

More and more when I travel, I hear teachers share stories of scripted curriculum programs they are expected to follow in their schools.  Often schools and districts are so concerned with high-stakes standardized tests, they seek uniform means for providing instruction to students.  Many schools and districts do this because they don’t trust teachers to be professionals.  Other schools do this because they think it’s a quick fix answer to their low test scores.  Does a standardized approach to education provide students what they need to be successful in the 21st century and beyond?  Is a standardized approach to instruction what we really want?  No!  We don’t.  Evidence of this not being what we want was unmistakable at the Kentucky Council of Teachers of English/Language Arts (KCTE/LA) annual conference, which concluded only hours ago.  This year’s conference theme was Literacy Matters:  The Common Core and Beyond. 

Professional conferences like this provide occasion for educators to refuel and network so they can return to schools energized and ready to provide students creative and critical opportunities to learn, and so they can be more connected to other educators.  Personally, I am on a creative high after hearing Sara Kajder discuss digital literacies and after hearing Kentucky’s poet laureate, Maureen Morehead, read her poetry.   Not only did I hear these well-established authors, I also heard Kentucky teachers talk about best practices in their classrooms.  The showcased sessions were not teachers sharing the page number they were covering in a scripted program.  Exciting session titles included “What’s the Big Idea?  The Real Purpose of Literature in Society and the Classroom,” and “The Power of Narrative in Writing and Teaching.”

I had the joy of reconnecting with a teacher I first met a couple of years ago; this teacher shares the passion I have for promoting creativity in education.   This all has me thinking about what we can do to stop squashing creativity in education.  With creative and thoughtful planning of time and resources, there’s no reason why schools couldn’t and shouldn’t do these five things. 

  1. Let students study and explore topics that interest them
  2. Let students use their own technology devices to enhance their learning
  3. Let students make mistakes
  4. Allow more time for the arts, physical education, and recess
  5. Allow more time for creating,  performing, dreaming, and thinking

In future posts, I will explore these ideas more fully and offer suggestions for how schools can pragmatically approach ways to stop squashing creativity.  If you have your own ideas, please share them here so we can all learn from one another.