Individual and Personal Attention in the Classroom
Gordon Brown tells the Labour conference that education must be "accessible to all, personal to all".
Creative Encounters in the Classroom
Not long ago I had the experience of discussing some pretty heady stuff with a friend of mine. The conversation drifted into the area of creativity. I asked my friend, “Are you creative?”
My friend turned this question over in his mind for a few seconds, then answered, “You know, I think once was the creative sort, but between school and the army, all of that was kind of drilled out of me. So, no, I don’t think I’m real creative.”
I suddenly felt very sad for my friend, because it is my belief that every human being is creative in some capacity. Whether it’s drawing up a game plan for a football game, looking at a business operational problem from a different perspective, or creating a work of art, all of us have innate talents.
When I look at a classroom full of bright-eyed elementary school students, I see a room full of creative potential. In that classroom could be the next Nobel Prize Winner, or the woman who finds a cure for AIDS, or an engineer who discovers a new alternative to fossil fuels, or even the next Bill Walsh or John Steinbeck. The potential is there…but it must be mined, discovered, nurtured and developed.
Unfortunately, simply preparing our children to take and pass standardized tests in a one-size-fits-all paradigm sorely misses the mark in developing this innate talent. Why? Because what is missing in this kind of education is the quality of encounter for the student.
Encounter is the process of experiencing the act of creativity. It’s looking at a problem, experiencing the solution, and acting on the impulse. This creates encounter. What happens inside this encounter? One loses track of time…experiences a complete integration with the process (the student becomes the process)…discovers an inner drive that creates a kind of momentum that combines imagination, intelligence and perseverance…and finds a solution. And, this encounter creates something that is also sadly lacking in our modern classrooms.
This encounter creates joy.
Rollo May, in his book, “The Courage to Create”, describes it this way: “What the artist or creative scientist feels is not anxiety or fear; it is joy. The artist, at the moment of creating does not experience gratification or satisfaction. Rather, it is joy, joy defined as the emotion that accompanies the experience of actualizing one’s own potentialities.”
Do you think preparing a child to take and pass tests affords him an experience of joy? In passing the language arts test, has she discovered something new and invigorating about her talents? Will his score on the math test “actualize his potentiality”?
That’s the problem. And it’s a problem that not only cheats the student of experiencing the true joy of self-discovery, but also cheats society out of the consistent infusion of new ideas, talent, and outright creativity that it needs to perpetuate progress and quality of life.
Parents intuitively know that their children are creative dynamos. They know that their kids have a gift, a talent, something that differentiates them and makes them special in some way. That’s why more and more parents are looking outside of the classroom to help develop their child’s gifts. Whether it’s music, art, theatre, literature or other creative studies, these kids will have an advantage because they are being trained to be whole people, lifelong learners, students who are on track to “actualize their potentialities”.
Unfortunately, most of these outside activities have a cost associated with them. Thus, parents who have more resources can give their children the values of becoming creative, while children whose parents may not have the economic resources are left to learn to become test-takers.
Is that fair? Especially if we know that our public schools could provide the means for every student to “actualize their potentialities”? The charter school format provides that alternative right now.
In fact, I think it’s fair to say that 20 years from now if a charter school graduate is asked, “Are you creative?”, the answer will be, “Of course…what a silly question. Don’t you know that we’re all creative?”
And wouldn’t it be great if all of our kids, rich and poor, could answer that question affirmatively.
Better yet, wouldn’t it be great if every student could experience the joy of learning, the joy of creation?
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