Things That Are Not Taught About Creativity

I ran into an article about ideas and beliefs that we are not taught about creative thinking. It really spoke to me because there are so few people who truly view themselves as creative. I used to be one of them, but through finding what I love to do, who I am, and how to express who I am through what I love to do, I found my creative self. I want to help others find their creative selves, as well. The article cites twelve points, and my next twelve blog posts will cover each point as it relates to the field of Early Childhood Education.

POINT ONE: YOU ARE CREATIVE

As I said above, there are so many people out there that feel that they aren’t creative. It simply isn’t the case. The article points out that creative people believe that they are creative, and people that don’t believe that they are creative don’t feel the need to put forth the effort to be creative.

I think that there may be a little more to it than that. Yes, creativity does involve an attitude – a certain way of thinking about yourself and your surroundings. But some people feel trapped by circumstances. In early childhood education, I know a lot of teachers that want to be creative, but feel like they can’t. Maybe they feel that the administration won’t go for their ideas. Maybe they just aren’t sure where to start. But part of being creative means taking the risks that are associated with it. Talking to the other people that have an affect on what goes on in your classroom can go a long way. Starting small and work your way up to the big ideas.

One of the factors involved in showing creativity as a teacher in Early Childhood Education is to ensure that our creative ideas do not endanger the safety of the children in the classroom. As teachers, it is our job to come up with creative ways to teach children, as well as keep them safe. Administrators are also responsible for the safety of the children, and are ultimately the ones who answer to the parents. Because of this relationship, it is a good idea to be in communication with your administrator about your ideas. I know that I have had several ideas that, while they were wonderful, wouldn’t have been as wonderful in the execution. I tend to think big, and because of this it is vital that I have a sounding board, someone who will listen to the idea and find the issues with it that need to be ironed out before the execution. An administrator can be that sounding board, because in most cases they have been in a classroom environment before. Because of their responsibilities to the center, the staff, and the parents, they are uniquely positioned to be a vital resource when it comes to ideas about what will work and what won’t. Administrators also tend to respect those who come up with new ideas, and who are not afraid to take risks associated with executing new ideas.

The bottom line is that everyone is creative. If you don’t feel creative where you are, you may be in the wrong place. If you feel that you have road blocks when it comes to showing your creativity, you need to examine what you think those road blocks are and work on getting them out of the way. I am a firm believer that a person cannot be truly happy unless they are unleashing their creative potential in the field that they love. Because of this, it is vital to make sure that you are doing something that you feel is worth your time. It brings to my mind the Holstee Manifesto. Check it out when you get a chance.

 

Twelve Things You Were Not Taught About Creativity by Michael Michalko

 

Is Early Childhood Education a Dead End Job?

This semester I am taking two courses on administration. They are required for my major, but I have been eyeing an administration job for a couple of months now – something that I once said that I would never do. Never say never. You never know where life will take you.

Anyway, I ran into an interesting thought while completing a homework assignment for the course. Apparently, childcare is viewed as a dead-end job by many people. The whole idea of it is funny to me, because I have never viewed it that way. Sure, the job doesn’t pay very much, but it really is one of those jobs that you have to love in order to do it effectively. I’m sure that if you don’t love it, it can be one of the most miserable jobs in the world, especially since it really doesn’t pay.

However, the main reason why I am surprised at this view is because there is so much that goes into the idea of teaching children and education in general:

  • The psychology of how children learn and how people think is intimately tied to Early Childhood Education. If an educator does not understand the basic principles of learning and thinking, it is very hard to be effective in the classroom.
  • Psychology is also involved when it comes to classroom management and the way that children behave. Not understanding the basics of what makes us act the way that we do can make it very hard to maintain control of a classroom of that many children.
  • Philosophy is necessary when a teacher needs to define their beliefs about teaching and learning. Basic knowledge about the nature of man and how one views man in general is key to how we treat children while we are teaching them.
  • Knowledge of child development is necessary so that we don’t overstimulate, over-challenge, or under-challenge children. This fits right into the psychology category, as well.
  • In some cases, a basic knowledge of interior design is needed to be able to create workable spaces for children to learn in. I have seen many, many spaces that have been inspirational to me, and have studied what other people have done that they say works – and what they say doesn’t.

The list of the knowledge requirements for being an effective teacher goes on and on, and there is so much to explore and learn in the quest to be an effective teacher that I have never viewed the field or the job as dead-end. But, as I said at the beginning of this post, it is something that you have to have an active interest in and love doing before doing the work that is required to learn the aspects of education becomes enjoyable.

Gain a Sense of Direction

Recently I wrote a post about writing down goals in order to be successful at fulfilling them. However, that was only part of the advice that I wanted to give.

As you know – if you have been reading this blog with any kind of regularity – I am in the process of creating a workshop for teachers in early childhood education. The experience has been very thrilling because I am going back and doing many things that I should have done the first time I tried to create this workshop. The main thing that I have done is gained a sense of direction for the workshop, and I have done this by writing everything down. Not just the goal of doing the workshop or what the different workshop sessions will be generally based on, but the direction of each session and what I want the participants to gain from it.

It hasn’t just been thrilling, but very eye-opening as well. As a teacher I see the impact that gaining a sense of direction has on the quality of the lesson and the information that I want to relay. I can see how important it is in any teaching capacity in order to be truly effective. It is a lot of work, but all of the work has been worth it because I am creating something that is truly magical and inspirational to share with others. And that is how our classrooms for children should be as well: magical and inspirational. It is worth the time and effort of the teacher to provide this for their students.

I am a big proponent of emergent curriculum and project-based learning. When implementing any of these teaching strategies in the classroom, planning and direction is a must.

Talking About Emergent Curriculum and Creativity

I recently began putting together the concrete pieces of what a creative classroom looks like. One piece is the curriculum and teaching style. I picked up a book that I have had for awhile: Emergent Curriculum in Early Childhood Settings: From Theory to Practice by Susan Stacey. On page five, Stacey outlines her assumptions about emergent curriculum:

  • While framed by the teacher, it is child initiated, allowing for collaborations between children and teachers, and giving everyone a voice.
  • It is responsive to the child, thereby allowing teachers to build on existing interests.
  • In its practice, the teacher takes on the role of facilitator, taking what she sees and hears, and bringing to children the opportunity to discover more, dig deeper, and construct further knowledge.
  • It is flexible in that curriculum planning, rather than being done well in advance, is constantly developing. Curriculum is dynamic, neither stagnant nor repetitive.
  • It enables children’s learning and teachers’ thinking to be made visible through varied forms of documentation.
  • It builds upon the theories of the recognized theorists in our field: the work of Dewey, Piaget, and Vygotsky supports the philosophy of emergent curriculum. Practices embedded in emergent curriculum make visible the work of these theorists – no longer is it contained only in early childhood texts.

Some of these points have been discussed before on this blog, but  most have not. But the framework of assumptions gives a picture of a classroom that exhibits many of the qualities of creativity that have been discussed on this blog.

curriculum creativity

The Spark

As I sat writing my last post my mind began to go back to all of the wonderful things that I have started throughout the years on this blog: the “Look at a Book” review idea that generated only one review; the posts about applying Conscious Discipline in the classroom; a scattering of surface-level diving into different topics of interest to me; and a smattering of posts dealing with psychology and philosophy as it relates to early childhood education.

Don’t get me wrong; I am thoroughly proud of what I have accomplished. But I can’t stop thinking big. Somewhere at some time after I wrote my last post, a spark ignited in my brain and the creative juices began to flow. My brain began coalescing all of these independent accomplishments into one big picture because I am passionate about all of these pieces, and somehow I new that the pieces fit.

Have you ever experienced the spark? It seems to light up your whole being as you begin to think about “what could be” and what is needed to turn “what could be” into “what is”. Anything seems possible and dots seem to connect themselves.

Have you ever seen a child get the spark? As a teacher, you talk to them about something you are learning about and they make some connection and they are off! As a teacher, I love those moments and I try to milk as much learning and expression out of them as I can. Those sparks are where true learning and creativity happen, and rolling with those sparks makes the time spent learning that much more enjoyable for everyone.

Imagine your life if you could not follow those sparks. There are plenty of teachers out there who, for one reason or another, can’t follow the sparks that ignite the children’s creativity. The pressure to pass standardized tests makes it hard for teachers to have time to pursue meaningful, internally motivated learning opportunities.

Due to the emergence of my own creative spark, Project: Preschool and Uplifting Freedom with be celebrating creativity for the month of June. We will be exploring what creativity is and how we as teachers can cultivate and encourage a spirit of creativity in the classroom. We will explore the role of curiosity in creativity and take a look at some prominent thinkers and pervading attitudes concerning creativity. I am truly excited about this journey, and I hope that you will join us.

The Delights of Researching Progressive Education

I am constantly and consistently amazed at the stories I am coming across during my research of Progressive early childhood education. My research has been focused on the Reggio Emilia educational approach today, as I discovered that this is the approach that the company I work for is implementing. Funny that I didn’t realize this before, what with all of the curriculum trainings I have been through during the past two years; I had to go on their website to discover it (once you put a name to it like “Reggio Emilia” the easier it seems to be to implement it correctly). Not to worry, though – my research has born wonderful fruit.

Here are some excerpts of my findings:

An example of a child-directed activity (this is so cool!)

A look at classroom environment – inspiration for my own classroom (especially the photograph frame – I really want to figure out how to make one of those, since that is a natural-looking depiction of one of the classroom structures that I need for my adventures in Conscious Discipline!)

In short, I have figured out that I have a LOT of work to do on my classroom, but I already knew that. I have been spending most of my holiday time trying to come up with better classroom organization techniques, and these photographs and the knowledge that I have gained so far have helped immensely.

What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate!

I recently decided that I would plan to go back to school in the summer, a complete change from my earlier stance that I would not go back to school, period, no way, no how, end of discussion. I have been reflecting on my change of heart, trying to figure out what caused it. Well, there’s more to it than that; I know that an increase in knowledge is what caused the turn-around. I feel like I’m thinking about education in an entirely new light and I’m thinking about my job from an entirely different perspective.

To be fair to my old perspective, I still do not believe that teachers are being taught how to teach effectively, and that they are still being taught the same old, tired theories that have gotten us here, but I have found a silver lining – the tides seem to be changing.

One of my big problems with how teachers are taught to teach is the explanation of Pavlovian conditioning. Now, granted, I am not an expert in the field of behavioral psychology, but I believe very strongly that this sort of conditioning is very harmful to the human psyche. But it is being used every day in schools and pre-schools everywhere, and has been for years. The results have been disastrous. Children for years have been told what not to do. Punishments have been put into place to discourage those who don’t follow the rules. Bullying and fighting has increased and more and more students feel disconnected from their authority figures.

The problem, it seems, is that our students are not being taught how to deal with people, and when they are taught, it is through the same conditioning methods used for everything else rather than through examples by teachers. No wonder – their teachers were raised on the same conditioning methods. Children aren’t learning about how to have healthy, mature relationships. Some may learn it at home, but most aren’t. And they aren’t learning it at school. Scores are going down as well. Is there a correlation? Is it the teacher’s job to teach about how to have healthy relationships?

One of the definitions of education that I love is one by Leonard Peikoff from his “Philosophy of Education” lecture series. He states that the definition of education is “the systematic instruction of the young to develop in them the powers necessary for mature life.” I agree wholeheartedly with this definition and add that one of those powers is the power to effectively communicate and deal with people.

It starts young – two, maybe three years old. A child takes a toy from another child because he wants to play with it. The other child cries. We soothe one child and give him his toy back, and then we reprimand the other child or put him in time-out. But what have we taught either child? We have taught one that when he cries or whines, he will get what he wants, courtesy of an adult. We have taught the other child that he gets attention from the teacher if he misbehaves. Positive or negative, it is still attention from the teacher in the mind of a child, and this kind of attention does not teach him the proper way to handle the situation – namely, asking the other child if they can share the toy or take turns, rather than taking the toy through the use of physical force. Likewise, the child that had the toy in the first place did not learn to use his own communication skills to tell the other child that he didn’t like their actions and to describe how he wanted to be treated in the future.

From this age, communication problems explode into parents being unable to talk to their teenagers, spouses being unable to communicate problems effectively, and employers wishing that they had people working for them who could communicate to them, customers, or coworkers. The problem has reached the point that some college degrees require a course on interpersonal communications.

Our job as teachers is not just about teaching children the three “R’s” but teaching them the skills they need to effectively navigate life, as well. This requires us to teach young children how to effectively deal with their emotions and to communicate their feelings to the necessary people effectively. It requires us to teach anger management skills to young children so that they will be able to handle life’s curveballs safely and calmly. But most of all, it requires us to make sure that our interactions with the children in our care involve the same types of respect, communication, and safety that we require the children to show to each other. One of the ways that this can be accomplished is to talk about your own feelings with the children. If they are not listening and you feel yourself becoming frustrated or angry, tell the children how you feel and invite them to join you in an appropriate anger management exercise, such as breathing. The best way to teach is through example, and when the children see you engaging in the same behavior that you are asking them to exhibit, the chances that they will exhibit that behavior are great.

Teaching social skills to an entire classroom of children requires work, consistency, and patience, but the rewards are great. When you see children sharing and working together in a mature manner, and you know that it is because of all the work you have done, it is one of the greatest feelings in the world.

Update: After some research, I have come to the conclusion that Pavlovian conditioning is not what I should have referred to. Pavlovian conditioning is a conditioning of the reflexes, which has nothing to do with the subject matter. The rest of my opinions in this post still stand. I’m sorry for any confusion that this may have caused, and I hope to clear up what kind of conditioning I am actually referring to in an upcoming blog post.

My Journey with Conscious Discipline, Part I

This past week I picked up the book “Conscious Discipline” by Dr. Becky Bailey. First, let me begin by saying that for me to pick up a book having anything to do with research into the childcare field is a BIG thing. I have opened my mind quite a bit recently, but I think I surprised even myself by my willingness and enthusiasm when it came to this book. And the more I read of this book, the more enthusiastic I am becoming.

Conscious Discipline is a seven step system that challenges the way you think about discipline. Dr. Bailey states that the difference between Conscious Discipline and traditional discipline is that traditional discipline is based on fear, coercion, and power struggles, among many other negative factors. Traditional discipline is also based on childcare providers, whether teachers or parents, trying to change or control people and situations outside of ourselves.

Conscious Discipline, on the other hand, requires that we look inside ourselves as the beginning of change in discipline in our classrooms. Dr. Bailey sites research that states that our state of mind and the way that we conduct ourselves directly affects how our children will behave. We have to exhibit and model proper behavior in order to teach it.

Now, a few weeks ago this would have sounded pretty kooky to me, but when you read the book and look at the evidence, you can see how well it can work if you put it in to practice. But, speaking of work, it requires a lot of work and willingness to look inside yourself to make it work. That is one of the biggest challenges that is involved in this system. It takes time, and Dr. Bailey suggests that you tackle each step one month at a time. That will give you the proper amount of time to thoroughly integrate the skill involved into not only your every day routine, but into your mindset as well. But to me, the payoff will be huge – a classroom that interacts like a family, more caring and conscientious behavior out of myself and the children I work with, and an increase in the amount of excitement and enjoyment that I get from my job.

I will be beginning to implement this system tomorrow, when I go back to work. I am very excited about it, and I want to share it with anyone who is interested in reading about it. I will be posting progress reports every now and then, not only to share with others, but so that I can look back and see how far I’ve come.