Curiosity Leads to Creativity

A couple of years ago, I took part in an online month-long workshop that changed the direction of my teaching forever. In the workshop we were asked to define our five deepest values. My list was as follows:

  1. Curiosity
  2. Flexibility
  3. Enthusiasm
  4. Respect
  5. Knowledge

Passion had originally been on my list, but I realized that, when you are working to define your deepest values, you are working to define what you are passionate about. Am I passionate about passion? Does that even make any sense? What is that passion that drives me every morning, that makes me want to get up and go to work every day, and still leaves me happy at the end of the day, even when I am exhausted? The answer is: curiosity.

I am amazingly curious about how people learn and how children think. I am curious about how social interactions between people lead to different emotional responses between children or adults. And what I have found, to my amazement and delight, is that my curiosity has fueled me to become more creative, not just in my classroom, but in my business as well. I have been researching a way to do teacher education workshops unlike any other workshop that I have ever been to. I have brainstormed new ideas and methods, and have poured countless hours of creativity into this blog. On the flip side, I have found that I don’t have patience for many things that have little or nothing to do with curiosity or creativity. I have written several workshops for Project: Preschool, but the ones that I am the most excited about have to do with creativity. I recently tried to focus on a new topic/direction for Uplifting Freedom for July, but found myself so unmotivated to write about it that I realized that I needed to keep my primary focus on creativity.

Luckily, creativity is a complex topic, and there are many different elements of a classroom and of life that affect creativity. This brings many different topics to write about and ways to think about it.

Today my mind keeps coming back to the fact that curiosity almost inevitably leads to creativity. Being curious about “how” will motivate one to come up with creative and productive methods of doing something. Being curious about “why” will lead one to explore new reasons for doing something, or the reasoning behind doing it differently. Being curious about “what” will lead one to discover new uses for something. Curiosity plays a crucial part in creativity, and it is by asking questions and seeking answers that we find our true creative mind.

Of course, knowing what our passions are is a big step in finding our true creative mind, as well. I don’t think I would ever have found mine if I hadn’t sat down and thought about what I was truly passionate about. It was through this exercise that I have been able to define what it is that I am curious about, and how to go about satisfying that curiosity. Through the satisfying of my curiosity, I have come up with new classroom methods, new workshop ideas, and new ways of doing old things. It has been a truly satisfying experience.

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Quote from Roald Dahl

Portrait of Roald Dahl,1954 Apr. 20

Portrait of Roald Dahl,1954 Apr. 20 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I ran into this quote today from Roald Dahl and I just had to post it:

I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. He taught me that if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.

So true, so true! What are you interested in? Are you passionate about it? Is it an intimate part of who you are?

Building Positive Relationships: Finding Their Element

Ken Robinson’s book Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creativewas extremely thought-provoking for me. In an age whre most people state that creativity peaks at age 7 (a topic that we will definitely visit at a later date), Robinson states that creativity can be very much alive and well in the adult, provided they find their passion – that element that allows them to experience the joy of working, creating, and discovering. Most people seem to go through life in a haze of dislike for their work but resigned to doing it anyway – and since this seems to be the norm in society, no one questions it. It seems to be the exception rather than the rule that one find fulfillment and happiness through their work.

I find that one of my jobs as a teacher is to provide different avenues for children to express their creativity. It is almost like a treasure hunt, because each child is different and each child likes to express their creativity differently. One may love to color and one may love to paint. One may love to play with sand and one may love to build with blocks. One may love to get messy and one may not like mess so much.

The key to the treasure hunt is to provide as many different experiences as possible, observe during those experiences, and brainstorm new experiences off of those observations. By observing children’s reactions to different experiences, we can help them find avenues for their creativity that they enjoy. If we let others in the child’s life know about the avenues the child seems to enjoy, they can expand and extend the experience for the child. And through their experimentation and expansion, new avenues to express creativity may emerge.

So what does this have to do with building positive relationships? Well, for starters, everyone seems to appreciate being supported in an area of their lives that they enjoy. This is no different in children. In a time when children are told “no” seemingly all the time, it is up to us, the advocates for children, to be the ones to tell them “yes”. There is a woman whose page I follow on Facebook who posts all the time about telling her children “yes”. And the way she phrases it, you can tell that the things she says “yes” to are things that the children have either asked to do, or are things that may have gotten a resounding “no” if not for a pause in which one asks the question, “Well, why shouldn’t they be allowed to do this?” Her children will most likely find their element quicker because they have been allowed to experience and experiment throughout their childhood. And they are also experiencing the respect from their parents that, even though they are kids, they are capable to learn  how to maneuver their way through life. They are also capable to learn from their parents about aspects of life through modeling.

Children are sill learning about their world. In order to gain a full understanding about the way the world works, children should be allowed to experience their world as much as possible. We have all had something in our life that we didn’t fully understand. Usually curiosity will drive us until we gain understanding. But if we feel that our curiosity is being stifled, we will lose our curiosity, and may lose interest in something that may potentially be our element. The same is true of children. One of the worst things we can do to a child is to stifle their inborn curiosity by not letting them experience and experiment with life.

Experiences Instead of Academia?

I ran into this video the other day, and it brought to mind a few questions – especially since I had just finished reading the Ken Robinson book Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative. Watch it. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

 

 

The interesting thing about this video, to me, is that Stephen Tonti states that those with ADHD have a difference in cognition. I am not arguing that this is or is not the case. I think that he is probably correct, since he has been living with ADHD all of his life. But he talks about how being able to experience many different things in his life enabled him to find out at a younger age than most what he really enjoyed doing – his medium, his element. My point in posting this video is that, wouldn’t it be much more beneficial to ALL children, not just those with ADHD, to provide them with a wide range of experiences so that they can find out about themselves and what their mediums are?

I remember when I was in high school, during my sophomore and junior years, going through somewhat of a crisis because I did not know who I was. I was sheltered and didn’t have a lot of life experience to fall back on in terms of knowing how life worked and what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go when I got out of high school. It is one of the scariest feelings in the world, not knowing who you are or what you are going to do or how to go forward with your life. But all I had really known, as far as school went, was sitting at a desk writing papers. And I was good at that. But I knew that I couldn’t do that for the rest of my life. Life isn’t about sitting at a desk writing papers. It is about finding what you really love to do and doing it. It is about living. And I had no idea how to do that.

Luckily I found out, and I found my element. But it took me years. I was in my thirties before I found it and figured out who I was. That is a lot of time that I could have spent being me instead of figuring out me.

After watching this video, it occurred to me that maybe we should be offering all children experiences  that will enable them to figure out who they are and what they love, instead of just sitting them at a desk all day and expecting them to write papers. Stephen Tonti said that he was able to figure out what he loved to do simply because he had the opportunity to do many, many things with all of his energy. Shouldn’t everyone have that opportunity so that they can figure themselves out? Is it fair to expect children or young adults to spend so much time figuring that out? Especially with the cost of higher education these days – stories are told all the time about people who went to get a degree, found out that they didn’t even like doing what it was they got the degree for, and then going back to get a degree in what it was they really wanted to do. It really seems like a huge waste of time and money, when we could be offering children the chance to learn about real life so that they can figure all of this out before they get to that point.

Our education system is so focused on assessments and testing that we have lost sight of what children really need to be learning about: how to live. Yes, math, reading and writing are important when it comes to living a full life, but they are not everything. Offering children experiences could help them learn how to live full, productive lives with as little wasted time as possible.

And I wonder, now that I think about it…do I blog because I know nothing else besides reading and writing? Because that is all I learned earlier in life? I was good at it, remember? That is a depressing thought. I do more than that, though. I teach. I try to offer the children that I teach experiences because I know how beneficial it is to them. I know that they aren’t even worried about their element at the age of two, but at least I can give them as much experience at life as I can. Someone should.