Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Classroom Culture and Creativity: What do you think?

When I work with kids, whether as a teacher of art, drawing or creative writing, (or in former days as a parent), I can always expect lots of questions. In my experience, the questions I hear most often do not relate to the content of the lessons or conversations - they are the "can I" questions. Can I color this red? Can I add a pattern? Can I write about my cat? Can I make this ... bigger, smaller, longer ... ? You get the idea.

In my classrooms, I strive to create a culture where kids feel free to experiment and make mistakes, after all, I am teaching art and creative expression. However, I am often brought up short by how timid and worried even my most creatively talented kids can be, to just do something they have not been specifically told to do. I can't even count the number of times I have invited kids to try out their ideas, to take a risk, to make a mess, and to use the garbage can (someone invented that too.) I regularly point out how every mistake can be a learning experience, and share stories of my own struggles and mistakes.

An interesting blog post I read this morning, What's school got to do with it?put this into a slightly new perspective for me. The blogger, Anne Marie Lei, asks the question How do the patterns we learned in the classroom as kids keep showing up in our adult lives at work---in our meetings, team projects, and relationships with managers and colleagues?

For me, the question is not (yet) about future work, but about day to day experience in school. Her post made me wonder how the patterns we learn in classrooms and at home as kids show up in the way we think and learn at school (or in art classes.)

How does the culture of the family and school, and the style of individual teaching impact a child's ability to think and work creatively? What style of teaching and parenting is most likely to result in creative thinkers, and kids best able to function in a world that demands flexibility and constantly changing skills?

This is an open-ended question (as I believe most should be) - what do you think? How does the culture of the classroom impact the way our kids learn and interact? What kinds of teachers are most likely to encourage creative thinkers? Does it matter in the long run? Please share your thoughts and ideas.