The Cult of Personality

In an effort to really understand what has been going on with me and my crazy mind-swings, I have been doing some research into areas that I believe will help me understand myself. I am reading Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, to be followed closely by Social Intelligence by the same author. I got these books originally as research for a book that I have been working on about conflict resolution (not the one that I was excerpting on this blog; that one has been shelved for now). Emotional Intelligence has been really fascinating so far, but I put it down for a few days to research something else that I have been curious about: personality.

I took a personality test years ago. It defined me as INTP. I didn’t know too much about that except that it means that I am definitely introverted. This past weekend I have been reading more into personality tests, what they measure, and what they mean. Did you know that, out of all of the personalities out there, INTP is the rarest? And from what I have read, it is amazing that I really get along with anyone at all since I live in my head so much. That’s an INTP for you.

I have a lot to learn about this whole personality thing, and it may be something that I read some more about. I had my fiance take the personality test so that I could see not only what his personality type is, but how our personalities interact together. I know, I can see how our personalities interact together on a daily basis, but one of the hallmarks of our relationship is that we don’t fight very much, and not over some of the things that other couples fight about. I was wondering if I could figure out why that is by examining our personality profiles side by side to see how our personalities work together. Also, it might be helpful with children in the classroom, too, to be able to see who has what personality and how we can work to make the classroom as comfortable for those personalities as possible. I think it will help me when I am dealing with my extroverted child, as well. She is about as extroverted as I am introverted, and I’m pretty introverted. That has already made for some interesting differences of opinion as far as how we should spend our time, among other things. There are many useful applications of this knowledge, and I can’t wait to share what I learn about it. And about emotional and social intelligence, as well.

My Confession

My way of ringing in the New Year has always been to look back on the past year and figure out what I can do in the next year to improve upon it. Rather than just picking out some random things that I would like to do and creating resolutions or goals to that end, I think about my journey thus far and the next steps that I want to take to further that journey. For example, I started writing my book in 2014. For 2015 I am planning on scheduling my time and creating goals for completing my writing because I am not getting as much accomplished on that front as I’d like. It wouldn’t make much sense to me to create a goal having to do with going to the gym because that isn’t a passion of mine. If I just started doing it because I think I should do it, I wouldn’t get anywhere with it. I’ve proved that with that very goal for several years; this year I am being smart enough to not join a gym. It all goes back to my belief (that has become stronger in the past couple of years) that life is a journey, and you need to focus on the road that you are taking. Once you focus on the road, when you come to a fork you will be able to better decide which direction to take.

One of my big accomplishments in 2014 was graduating with an associate degree in Early Childhood Education. Ever since I graduated I have been contemplating my next steps for educating myself. I’ve discussed options with my director, and thought a lot about what I want to do but the thing is, the answer has been in front of me the whole time. For a really long time, actually.

Ever since I was in high school, I have wanted to study psychology. People fascinate me. Why they do what they do fascinates me. But my fascination has become a lot more specific since I began studying education, because a lot of what I have been studying has a lot to do with psychology. How people learn fascinates me. How they think, what they think, how they solve problems, all of that fascinates me. The brain fascinates me. How infants and toddlers learn so much so quickly fascinates me. Not the fact that they learn so much, but how they learn so much. All of that is a big, wonderful puzzle that I am dying to uncover.

In all of my conversations about furthering my education that I have had with other people (except for the ones with my fiancé), they have told me that it would be hard to get a job if I study psychology. But I don’t want to just be a psychologist. Psychology is a vast area of study with many different branches. I want to study educational psychology. I want to study how people learn, how different people learn differently, and I want to apply the knowledge that I gain in a classroom. That is what I want to do. That is what I’ve wanted to do for years now, and it is high time that I stop listening to everyone around me and do what I really want to do.

This whole thing reminds me of the Sir Ken Robinson video that I passionately share with anyone I encounter who is at all interested in education; in it Robinson states, “You were probably steered benignly away from things at school when you were a kid, things you liked, on the grounds that you would never get a job doing that.” That is pretty much what every administrator I have talked to has said about my ambition to study psychology. The problem with this advice is that they don’t know that I won’t get a job doing that, they don’t know about my absolute passion for the field and how long I have been holding this passion, and their goal is to have teachers in their building with the highest level of ECE education that they can get. Their goal shapes the words that come out of their mouth, and their goal is different than mine. My goal is to learn how people learn and how they think. For once I need to be true to myself, that self that has long wanted to study psychology, and do what I really want to do. And that is one of my goals for this year.

Training Your Brain to be Creative

This post is the third in a series based on the article “Twelve Things You Were Not Taught In School About Creative Thinking” by Michael Michalko. You can view the first post here and the second post here.

Whenever you are in the process of learning something, you are training your brain in that area. New connections are made between neurons in your brain, strengthening your ability to accomplish the tasks that you have been practicing. While we think about practicing in order to increase our ability to do things like play sports or musical instruments, it also helps to practice other skills that we want to learn – even being creative.

Like a lot of people, I used to view myself as someone who isn’t creative. I looked at things that other people created with envy, wishing that I could be that creative. It took me a very long time to realize that I could be creative like that. The two keys that I found: a vision and determination.

I started out with a vision. Because I have done so much independent research into learning, thinking, education, and creativity, I felt that I could offer my knowledge to others. I created a vision of what it would look like to offer workshops to other teachers so that I could pass on my knowledge to them. I broke down the vision into pieces and tried to figure out what I needed to do to make each piece happen.

Then came the determination.

I had to MAKE myself do something toward realizing that vision. Every day. I couldn’t skip a day, or I would get lazy. My brain would stop coming up with ideas. I would stop trying to figure out how to implement them. I would stop imagining the end result. I would stop dreaming. And working.

I set a goal every single day, and set out to accomplish it no matter what it took. Some days were harder than others. Stress gets in the way sometimes. I have two kids, a full time teaching job, and I am going to school part time, so finding time to plan workshops gets tough. But the motivation is there. I love the vision and the knowledge that I have. The idea of sharing that knowledge with others inspires and motivates me. Working every single day toward realizing that idea and that vision has made it easier to do. I am now in the marketing phase for my first workshop, to be offered in a face-to-face (as opposed to online) format. Every time I hit a new phase, I have to push myself again. Each phase is harder than the one before, but each phase brings me closer to realizing my vision.

It takes work and determination to put forth the effort to train your brain in anything. Many of the people who have written about creativity say that creating a routine is essential. It helps to train your brain if you have a routine, and it helps keep your brain involved in the process if you take time to be creative frequently.

Everyone has the capacity to be creative. The key to training yourself to be creative is to find your passion, and then use your vision and your determination to work on that passion.

Five Things Learners Expect From Their Educators

I ran into this article about what learners expect from their educators. In light of what has been mentioned about motivation and creativity on this blog in the past two months, it is interesting that a lot of the ideas fall directly into the line of what is necessary for creativity. I urge you to read the article and see the connections for yourself:

5 Things Learners Expect From Their Educators

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.

Finding Your Own Passion

When I was young, I wanted to be a teacher. I had a desk that I set up in my room and pretended that I was teaching my dolls. When I got into high school, I wanted to be a psychologist. The way people think and how people learn has been a subject of great interest to me for most of my young adult and adult life.

When I was 18, I got married and then got pregnant. My dreams of studying psychology at the University of Chicago shattered as I worked at Chick-fil-A, first as counter help, then as a shift manager, and finally as a marketing director. I hated marketing. It was challenging, so it held my interest, but I had no idea what I was doing and I was learning as I went. When bringing in new customers is your job and you have no idea how to do it, things can get pretty frustrating pretty fast. Not to mention the fact that I was a shift manager and the marketing director at the same time – I had to do most of my marketing job at home, off the clock.

When I gave birth to my second child, I said good-bye to the fast food industry. I had begun thinking about going back to school and majoring in education. I got a job working in child care (admittedly, it was a job of convenience at the time), and quickly discovered that I loved it. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, the job fit in nicely with my passions of education and psychology. Years – and hundreds of hours of research – later, I am realizing that I have landed in my passion and am doing everything I can to learn about the field and the psychology of learning, creativity, motivation, and other aspects of education.

Recalling the story of how I landed in my passion makes me realize that discovering and acting on your passion is sometimes not easy. I got lucky in that my job of convenience turned out to be the path to my true passion. Some people are not that lucky. Some people end up on a path simply because they are good at something. Sir Ken Robinson talks about a woman who started out as a concert pianist. She has dinner with a conductor one night, who points out to her that he can tell that she does not enjoy being a concert pianist. She realizes that her true passion is literature and she becomes a book editor. Other people that I know are doing what they are doing simply because the circumstances of their lives called for swift action – a job of convenience, like my initial job in child care.

I haven’t talked to too many people about what their passion is, if they are doing their passion, or if they are going to be involved in their passion in the future. It would probably lead to many interesting conversations. Maybe instead of talking about reading and reviewing a book that I already know I probably won’t finish, I should talk to people about their passions. I am looking forward to having the opportunity of doing that during the workshop, although I know that for some people the process of discovering their passion is a deep and personal one. When I went through the process of discovering my passion for the classroom, it took me a week of deep soul searching, and I haven’t shared the results of that process with anyone. My hope is that I can share my process with others and they can use it to discover what they are passionate about in the classroom, and it can inspire them as it inspired me. My hope is that it makes a difference.

Note: In the first draft of this post, I spent a great deal of time talking about book reviews, after I mentioned something about reviewing another book by Sir Ken Robinson about people finding their passion. Through the reflection that I did during the first draft, I realized that book reviewing is not for me – it definitely is not my passion. Therefore I will not be reviewing Ungifted by Scott Barry Kaufman. Although the first 250 pages of the book blew my mind (I loved it), I have come to the realization that I probably won’t finish the book. I hate to disappoint, but I do have to say that if you are interested in the psychology of intelligence, creativity, and motivation, it will definitely be a great read for you.

Creativity Fueled By Passion

Through the course of creating my workshop Encouraging Creativity in the Classroom I have pondered over the definition of creativity. Sir Ken Robinson defines creativity as “the process of having original ideas that have value”. I wanted to incorporate the different aspects that I have seen and experienced that are inherent in the process of creativity, so I created this definition:

Creativity is an idea which, when combined with the proper energy, inspires action to develop something that has value.

Even though the word is not present in the definition, I believe passion to be the “proper energy”. In fact, if I were quoting my definition outside the context of a workshop, I would probably substitute “proper energy” for “passion”. However, this definition was created with an eye toward presentation, so that is how it stands.

Do you find yourself creative mostly in the realm of an area that you feel passionate about? I was contemplating this as I wrote my last post, because I watch people as they talk about different things. The things that they feel the most passionate about are usually the ones in which their eyes light up as they talk about it, and they have more knowledge about it because of their passion towards it. I am sure that, if I take a closer look at people’s passions and where they feel the most creative in their lives, there would be a strong correlation between the two. Sometimes I am prompted in my head to ask, “But why are you doing this when you are so passionate about that?” It really brings to mind the Holstee Manifesto:

 

The Process of “Chunking”

During the process of developing my workshop Encouraging Creativity in the Classroom (I’m still working on it right now – it should be available in a month or so), I was introduced to a process called “chunking”. I had never heard of this as a creative process before, and assumed that it was a term that the person who clued me into the process came up with. But then I ran into another Brain Pickings article that talked about the process and why it is such a powerful creative technique. It turns out that it wasn’t just a made up term after all.

Incidentally, the story about the man who increased his working memory by using exponential chunking is also detailed in the book Ungifted by Scott Barry Kaufman. It goes into much more detail about the methods that the man used over time. But no matter which version of the story you read, it is still fascinating stuff.

The Science of “Chunking”, Working Memory, and How Pattern Recognition Fuels Creativity

The Truly Creative Individual

I recently began reading Why Fly? A Philosophy of Creativity” by E. Paul Torrance. I had originally set out with the goal of reviewing the book, but since it is comprised of a collection of essays that span the course of several years, I believe that the best course of action will be to pull relevant material from it. I may do a general review after I finish it.

I came across this quote last night during my reading, and it struck me because I saw myself so perfectly in it. I have to share it to see if anyone else is struck the same way:

Because they can’t stop thinking, [creative] teachers don’t stop working with a forty hour week. The supervisor who cannot tolerate an independent spirit will find it difficult to direct or rigidly channel the energies of the creative teacher, who becomes completely absorbed in his or her work and sometimes equates supervision with interference. Anyone who tries to suggest a change in the work or a creative person just as she is finishing a job may be inviting an explosion. The work at that point is as much a part of the worker as her vital organs…

The truly creative teacher does not work for status or power; he has no desire to be principal or superintendent. He works in order to live with himself: the freedom to create is his greatest reward. Occasionally, he may prefer to work alone; he may insist on setting his own pace. The mind needs an incubation period of seeming inactivity to hatch ideas. Since creativity involves divergent thinking, we can expect the creative teacher to express ideas that differ from our own and from some of education’s time-honored practices. Furthermore, since he cares nought for power, he is unlikely to change his thinking in order to curry favor with his superiors. He may be difficult to hold to routine and become restless under conventional restraint. We works best when dealing with difficult, challenging problems or when engrossed in a project that is his “baby.” There will be times when he will defy precedent. He may try a new idea without official permission.

Does anyone else see themselves in this description? I had chalked a lot of these characteristics up as character flaws. Who knew that they were indicative of a creative spirit? Torrance would know; he has been studying creativity for years.

creative individual

Perspectives on Creativity From an Engineer

In doing research on what the consensus is for when creativity peaks, I ran into this article by Joseph Berk, an engineer. Joseph offered a different perspective on creativity than Ken Robinson. Robinson, as well as many other people that I have featured on this blog, have stated that creativity is essentially one’s ability to connect the dots and come up with something new from those connections. Joseph Berk laments that “most new designs are evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. They are improvements or modifications of other designs, rather than completely new concepts. They involve applications of other mechanisms and concepts, rather than completely new things.”

Isn’t this the “connecting the dots” that Robinson and others have talked about? Berk is not arguing that it isn’t, nor is he saying that this isn’t a type of creativity. He is lamenting that there isn’t more original work coming out of the world of engineering.  He faults the rules, regulations, and other constructs of society and the natural world that essentially put an engineer in a box and do not allow them to come up with original ideas of their own, simply because they are busy trying to conform to those rules.

The article is an interesting read, and another piece in the puzzle of creativity.