I showed them the Creativity video from Apple, and I asked what I thought was kind of a rhetorical question, “Is creativity important?”
One child squinted at me nervously, one nodded somewhat hesitantly, and the other two vigorously shook their heads. (I normally have 5 in this first grade gifted class, but one was absent.)
I tried not to show my astonishment, my absolute disbelief that they could have responded in any way but, “YES!!!”
After I picked my jaw off the floor, I asked the two certain-that-creativity-is-not-important students, “Why isn’t creativity important?”
One didn’t really have an answer, and the other said with great conviction, “Because it’s just fun!”
How had this happened? (Maybe because I need the above poster plastered on my wall.) How had I spent this long with these students without communicating that I feel, very very strongly, that creativity is so important?
Yesterday, I decided to get a wider sample from my class of 18 second-graders. Some of these kids have been with me since Kindergarten, so I was hoping more cumulative exposure to my teaching would give me different results.
It was slightly better. Only 5 students shook their heads. But the yeses did not seem very confident. When I asked the “no” students to explain, one student said, “Because it’s destructive. The more humans create, the more of our planet and animals we destroy.”
Wow. That certainly made sense.
Other students were quick to respond with how human creativity can solve problems, sometimes even improving things, and that it makes life worth living.
When I asked, “Which would you rather have more of – creativity or knowledge?” most of the class said, “Creativity!” But I suspect they may have figured out by then that I was not very happy about creativity getting a bum rap.
Obviously, creativity needs a new ad campaign in my classroom. Instead of saying, “Now, let’s do something fun!”, I need to say, “Now, let’s do another kind of important thinking,” or, “Now, let’s work on solving problems a different way.” I thought I was good at praising unique answers and unusual methods, but now I see that I don’t do it often enough.
Of course, I want creativity to be “fun,” but does that mean it can’t also be important? Does that mean the perceived “important” types of work can’t be fun?
This tweet that I saw the other day explains one reason that many of our students probably feel this way.
Do we have to measure creativity for it to be considered a valuable asset? If not, then what can we do to help our students understand its significance.
Or, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe creativity really isn’t that big of a deal.