Do Schools Kill Creativity Because Teachers Kill Creativity?

We can talk all day long about the new regulations for schools and testing, and about how teachers have to teach to the test now more than ever before. In fact, we should have those conversations because they are very relevant to the conversations that we are having now about creativity. The fact that teachers must teach to the test means that they highly value one type of student over another: mostly the one who shows the least amount of traits related to creativity.

We have talked a lot about different types of schools and different types of teaching that can engage students and get their creative juices flowing. What I have found is that, through these different types of teaching, the academic knowledge comes with it. Like Gever Tulley said in his video, it comes for free! I just had two and three year olds write the letter “T” on tickets that we made for a movie theatre that we were building to put on a production of “The Three Billy Goats Gruff”. Numbers and counting, dramatic play, letters, good vs. evil, etc., etc. Unlimited learning from one activity. Now we are doing the “Three Little Pigs” and we are exploring building, language (apparently my kids have drinking straws confused with the type of straw that the pig built their house with), counting, different types of houses, rooms in houses, shapes involved in building houses, items in a house, the effects of wind, the amount of wind it takes to do damage to the items used to build the houses in the book – the exploration opportunities are endless.

Because teachers and administrators have had to become so worried about standardized testing, these exploration-based and thought-provoking types of activities are being left behind as children are being made to sit and memorize in an effort to pass tests. They aren’t learning anything meaningful about life at their desks, getting ready for these tests! Because teachers have to worry about their jobs because of these tests, they value the students who make it easier for them to teach in the way that they need to in order to ensure that the students will be able to pass the tests.

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Building Positive Relationships: The Role of a Teacher in Creative Classrooms

I really enjoyed the videos for Gever Tulley’s school. It was refreshing to see a teacher letting children create. But just as children need the time, tools, and tolerance from teachers in order to create, they also need to know that there is a right and a wrong way to do something. Seven-year-olds would not have been able to create a mini roller coaster without the knowledge of what it took to accomplish that task.

So what, then, becomes the role of the teacher? If we simply sit children down and talk to them about the mechanics of a roller coaster, we can’t really be sure that they understand what we are talking about enough to build one for themselves – we have taken learning out of the context of the real world (similarly to how I learned math). If we simply stand back and let them do their own thing, they are liable to hurt themselves for lack of information about the tools, materials, and mechanics involved in building a roller coaster.

What is the middle ground? How can we ensure that children have the freedom to be creative and the information they need to be safe and know what they are doing?

The key is to become a facilitator. A facilitator is someone who coordinates and leads the work of a group. If the group needs information, the facilitator finds means to get it the information it needs. As a leader, the facilitator is responsible for ensuring that the group understands what they are doing in order to be safe. From a teaching stand point this may mean modeling and explaining the use of tools and designing peripheral activities to experiment with mechanics and ideas related to the physics of a roller coaster. The point is that the teacher needs to be aware of any misunderstandings or misconceptions that the children may have, and do whatever they can to help clear up those misconceptions. And when children are working within the context of real life and the teachers are able to hear and see the children talking about their topic, it is much easier to spot misconceptions. When a teacher functions primarily as a lecturer, misconceptions are harder to spot because the children are not speaking about what they are thinking.

The role of facilitator is a much more general role than lecturer. It requires diligence to the ideas of the children. This is why I wrote this topic under “Building Positive Relationships”. When you become more focused on pinpointing misunderstandings that a child may hold, it requires you to hold the children’s ideas in a different light. The ideas of children hold more value, and you find yourself working with them in the context of their ideas. When you are simply a lecturer, you are working for them – and in some cases in spite of them – but not necessarily with them. This slight but dramatic change of focus also changes the level of interest of everyone involved. Everyone from student to teacher becomes dedicated to the task of figuring out how to safely and successfully complete a project. One of the most poignant moments of the roller coaster video for me was the end, when we hear Gever Tulley celebrating the accomplishments of his students with them. These kind of celebrations don’t happen in a classroom primarily composed of lecture. The accomplishments are smaller and less noticeable, and while the class usually comes together to celebrate, the celebration is about something less tangible, or even negligible, in an atmosphere where a teacher is a facilitator (such as behavior).

In education, we talk about fostering a love of learning in children and helping them become lifelong learners. Children won’t have a teacher in front of them lecturing their entire lives. They won’t be able to call one up and ask them to come down and give them a lecture any time they have a problem that needs to be solved. At it’s root, teaching is showing children how to live and how to think, how to work and how to grow.

An In-Depth Look at Gever Tulley’s School

As I was trying to locate the video for yesterday’s post, I came across another video of Gever Tulley where he explains his school a little bit more. He details how talking about his school with others has helped him to conceptualize their processes a little more, and he talks more about those processes. I hope that you enjoy this video as much as I did.

The more I think about the model that is used in the school, the more impressed I am. My brain is already going into overtime with this one. Is yours?

Gever Tulley’s Tinkering School

In a past post, I talked about time, tools, and tolerance. I discussed these as things that we need to provide to children in order to encourage them to be creative. In this video, Gever Tulley talks about providing these very things to children in his school, and highlights some of the amazing accomplishments that they have made.

Enjoy!