Would you permit me to crusade a little on a topic I am passionate about? I want to inspire policy makers and leaders to change the current paradigm we use in education and help foster a revolution of creativity for the benefit of our children and generations to come. How can you help me? Start with watching and sharing Ken Robinson’s “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”
Almost twenty years ago I left the teaching profession. I had a few reasons and a bunch of excuses for leaving, even more so for never returning. Each year since I left something or someone has lit a match to reignite the joy I had when standing in front of a classroom, or side by side with learners, challenging myself to find novel ways of helping them understand the concepts that temporarily eluded them. I loved and still love this challenge. Now I get to enjoy this practice with my daughter and my friends. For some stubborn reason, I choose to not listen to their compliments. My sister, who is an excellent teacher tells me at least three times a year how good a teacher I would have been and I often dump a great load of crap attitude on her for her kind compliments. Other than being terribly ungrateful to all these supportive and beautiful people, I am deeply disrespecting myself.
I was trained in an Early Childhood Education program that talked about creativity, but rewarded form and pattern more. Being the stubborn ass that I am, I bucked the system with doing every paper and presentation on creativity and play, then I got discouraged, demotivated, and sought out other venues to express my creativity. The final straw that convinced me to leave the program was my academic advisor telling me that there were no more jobs for art teachers, nor for art therapy support teachers. I didn’t look further for options and I gave up! I’d regretted it for a long time, before coming to terms with it. Then I started training, consulting, and coaching. My great joy of finding creative solutions came back! I started listening differently to my friends, colleagues, customers, my wife, and my amazing daughter. Especially my daughter, who finds her own way to tell me I’m a good teacher, usually by comparing me to her favourite teachers.
What’s all this self-congratulatory blah-blah about? Self-awareness! I have come to this point in my life, forty-five years after starting in the regular school system, to realize that my true self involves being a creative person. Now when I look back, it’s who I’ve always been. Imagine how different my life might have been had I been encouraged to pursue an artistic or creative career, instead of the safe path through pure & applied sciences & commerce. My parents have confirmed that when I was five, I started answering the question of what I wanted to be when I grew up by stating that I wanted to be an architect. My parents had no idea how to help me with that. They saw me drawing and building Lego cities for hours at a time, happily humming to myself. I had an uncle who was an architect, so they sent me to him to ask questions when I was in high school. His perspective was that it was a crappy career choice, full of hard work and no creativity. So, my parents decided this wasn’t a good path and did what they thought was the best course for me and steered me in a safer direction. There was no help from teachers in school, as the system was changing in Quebec, and we were starting to see the influx of standardized testing and teaching to the tests. Even the teachers were no longer being permitted to be creative, so how could they help me grow that part of myself?
Yes, there is some sadness and regret in all this. Mostly for the years spent looking for my true purpose in life, as I watched enviously those who knew their calling at an early age and pursued it. Today, I watch my daughter and I wonder how much of what she has to do in school kills her creativity. Thankfully, she’s in a good private school and has had some amazing teachers who let her draw and express herself creatively in class. She loves her art club, and dives in when it comes to helping decorate her school for social activities. Still, the lesson plans the teachers teach don’t seem to emphasize much creative thinking or problem solving. Even her science class seems to focus more on product than process and exploration. Where is the room for learning from the mistakes? Where are the teachable moments being cultivated, instead of being imposed? Where are the teachers like Ramsey Musallam & his 3 rules to spark learning?
I want to start an education revolution! I want the world to embrace new paradigms that emphasize creativity & embrace self-directed learning. I want the world to see that teachers who are allowed to inspire are more effective and more motivating, than those who are drudging through their days, blandly disseminating information. Our children don’t need a teacher for that. They are already much quicker at finding and absorbing information from the internet than any teacher can hope to compete with. What they need is guides, facilitators, and instigators of curiosity. We need to stop putting our children in creativity killing schools and start demanding for the integration of alternatives such as Khan Academy, The Alt School, and The Reggio Emilia System. We need to hear more voices talking out against the over diagnosing of ADHD, and speaking out for the possibility that these children are more likely to have different learning styles that requires them to expend their creative energy in their own ways.
So, I ask you again, what can you do to help? I challenge you to share your ideas here and everywhere when you share this article. Be creative. Don’t think outside the box; throw the box out and think without constraint. No idea is crazy or impossible, it only takes one idea to change the world. Let’s do this for our children. I want to start an educational revolution! What can you do to help?