“I am me. You are you. Being Creative Together– That’s What We Can Do”
Imagine you are a primary school teacher who understands why weaving creative thinking skills into her classroom has a powerful effect on her students, inspiring them to speak up and share ideas in ways they hadn’t thought of before. They feel free to do this inside and outside the classroom, as they have a teacher who skilfully uses affective creative thinking every day to create a safe and happy classroom.
Her Principal encourages all the teachers to dive deep into their own learning, researching ways to enrich their teaching practices. She invites them to share their joys and failures, insights, and any ah-ha moments they are having, as they build creative confidence. The Principal knows that if her teachers can build creative confidence and courage in their teaching, this will build the creative confidence and courage of the students.
In this creative possibility scenario, Mrs. Vocate has some new insights to share about how she is seeing amazing changes in her students from what she is applying every day with her newfound knowledge of creative thinking skills.
After reading the following letters, one from the teacher and one from the student, I invite you to think about this question?
What are the ways we can use creative thinking to make advocacy a more creative process – to help teachers and their students build courage and confidence to take creative action?
Letter to the Principal
Mrs. B. Open, Principal
The Creative School,
101 Possibility Hill Road
Dear Mrs. Open,
Thanks again for that great conversation we had about the issues we are having with motivation and application with our Grade 4 students. I have just finished reading a fantastic book called “When You Wonder, You’re Learning: Mister Rogers’ Enduring Lessons for Raising Creative, Curious, Caring Kids” (2021) by Behr & Rydzewski. The authors refer to this as the “fourth-grade slump” – a phenomenon well-known by researchers and educators around the world. I’ll bring in a copy for the staffroom library.
I appreciate your ongoing encouragement in studying the Masters of Science in Creative Education at Buffalo State University, with my focus on the affective creative thinking skills. Recently, I have been talking with the children about how important it is to feel safe to share their ideas with each other, to think about how they can use their creativity in their class work and how they might share in a way that feels good to them. We have also been talking about creativity as a thinking process, not just about being artistic or good at dancing, music or drama, although many of them love to do this in their co-curricular activities.
They have been practising speaking in front of the class. It’s amazing to see even the shy ones get up and share their ideas, not only the kids in the debating club. There is something really wonderful happening. I’d love you to come down when you have time and see them in action. It really is a joy to teach them – most of the time!
I have outlined three main points from my research that speaks to what I think is happening with the children in my classroom.
1. Psychological Safety gives Creative Freedom
In my research, I have come across a powerful concept called ‘psychological safety.’ It was first mentioned by Carl Rogers, an eminent clinical and research psychologist, in his article; “Towards a Theory of Creativity” (1954), but still holds true, particularly in relation to the more gentle inner-world of a child’s creativity – what I call Inside-Out Creativity.
Rogers talks about four associated factors;
- Accepting the individual as of unconditional worth.
- Providing a climate in which external evaluation is absent.
- Understanding empathetically.
- Psychological Freedom.
I am exploring how to model this so the children know they are valued for who they are and safe to share their ideas without evaluation or judgment by myself or the other children in the class. It is incredible what they have to say when we co-create this kind of learning space. They are more accepting of each other, which is having a knock-on effect in minimising some of the ‘sticky’ behaviors with some of the more challenging students in the class.
Since I explained to them that when we do these activities, I’m not grading them, they all relax quickly into it and are more playful. They feel free to test their thinking out loud. This has had another follow-on effect, where more children (not only the persistent hand-raisers) are asking questions in class. They are not afraid to speak up. They don’t want to stop – groaning and voicing their dissatisfaction when I say, “OK, we need to get onto our spelling words for the day.” After all, some learning just has to be done this way.
2. Creativity is a Skill
There is a set of Creative Thinking Skills Dr. E. Paul Torrance, a prolific creativity scholar, designed and developed from the 1950s right up until the late 1990s, which Dr. Cyndi Burnett more recently synthesized into a brilliant book to help teachers weave creativity into their lessons. The children and I have been exploring these skills. They are really loving testing out skills like – Keep Open, Be Aware of Emotions, Make it Swing! Make it Ring!, and Playfulness and Humor.
There are twenty skills Burnett shares. For example, we take a topic we are studying, like Mathematics or English, and weave creativity all the way through the learning content. Their ideas are often really inventive! Can you imagine learning about numbers by acting it out in a mini-play about counting monsters or practicing their writing by making up lyrics about their favorite YouTuber? These are their ideas! The classroom is literally alive with creativity.
It’s worth witnessing the turnaround in the enthusiasm they have for their learning. You may be thinking, “How exhausting!” But I have realized that the buzz of learning this way is improving their concentration and motivation to learn at other times in class when they are being quieter and more reflective. They are calmer, and more focused.
3. Self-Advocacy is your Creative Voice Speaking
“Self-Advocacy is the process of recognising and meeting the needs specific to one’s learning abilities without compromising the dignity of oneself or others.” – Loring Brinckerhoff
The power of giving children a creative voice is that it doesn’t matter what profile they have; my students with diagnosed learning differences, the gifted kids, the big personalities, and the quiet introverts, for example, are all beginning to participate through the co-creation of learning activities that speak to what they want to share with their classmates. They are making surprising connections with each other without judgment or comparison. If we have a conflict, I remind them of our class motto;
“I AM ME. YOU ARE YOU. BEING CREATIVE TOGETHER. THAT’S WHAT WE CAN DO.”
Deb Douglas, in her book; The Power of Self-Advocacy For Gifted Learners: teaching the four essential steps to success (2018), focuses her insights and strategies on the gifted learner. However, I believe her methods can be applied to all learners – children self-advocating for the benefit of everybody through their individual creativity. I have attached a letter written by one of my students, Tigan Frances, as an example of how remarkable a child can be when they experience agency in their learning to take action and advocate for something that is important to them. You just never know when or how someone is listening until you hear them use their own voice.
I wrote in one of my past papers about advocacy, “When self-advocating, students are choosing their own paths, weighing the alternatives, and making choices. It’s a Creative Problem-Solving Process (CPS). Self-advocacy addresses a need, solves a problem, and uses creative leadership to bring people along with their vision. Parents and educators benefit from knowing the process too, so they can support their children in a collaborative process across their schooling years to help them to create their own futures.”
I hope you also feel inspired after reading Tigan’s letter. I would love to speak more with you to work out how we can help her to bring her creative ideas to life.
Miss A.D. Vocate
Letter from Tigan to her Teacher
Dear Miss Vocate,
Me and my friends have been talking about an idea our class could do for the school newspaper. We think it’s so unfair that 4th graders aren’t allowed to send in articles for the senior Prep paper. Sally and I love writing and even Justin, who is so quiet in class but wants to help us, as he is so amazing at drawing, but you probably don’t know that, because he draws all over his Mathematics book – but don’t tell him I said that because he is a good friend!!!
You know how you tell us to use our creative voice as much as we can to help people in class? And that creativity is not about being good at painting or ballet? And that it’s a thinking thing…well, we had this idea to become “Creativity Reporters.” That is where we go around the whole school, from the Kindy kids right up to the Grade Sixers, and we interview them about CREATIVITY. We can ask lots of questions about how they like to use their creativity, just like you do with us in class. It doesn’t just have to be my friends though. There could be ROVING reporters in each grade that help us with this.
THEN the best bit – we can write ARTICLES and make VIDEOS and TIKTOKS or make an APP to share with the whole school – even in the High School, maybe??? My big sister never plays her guitar anymore because she is always studying for this test and that test. It’s sad because she used to play it a lot and she smiled more then. My brother is so good at gaming and could help us make the app. He is in Grade 9. Maybe? What do you think? Can you help us?
PS: My Mum thinks it’s a great idea.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR READING THIS MISS VOCATE!!!!!
About Katie Ravich
Katie Ravich is a passionate Advocate for a Creative Life. This is her debut article for Creativity and Education. She continues to explore and apply the principle –
Creativity is Foundational to Learning;
By building courage and confidence, creativity can be cultivated in everybody. Training in self-awareness and motivation, using creative thinking skills builds agency and advocacy to take creative action.
She is working towards a Masters in Creativity and Change Leadership 2024 – Buffalo State University while working as the Program and Community Catalyser for the Masters of Creative Intelligence and Strategic Innovation Program (MCISI) at the University of Technology, Sydney. (UTS)
B.A Design (Visual Communications) – University of Technology, Sydney
Graduate Certificate in Creativity and Change Leadership – Buffalo State University
Microcredentials – Buffalo State University: MCAC – Applied Thinking and Problem-Solving.
MC Creative Education – Innovative Learning, Thinking and Problem-Solving.
Microcredentials – UTS: Learning Design – Creating Multimedia Interactive Elements. In progress; Transdisciplinary Learning for Change, Creative Intelligence Catalyser
Behr, G. & Rydzewski, R. (2021). When You Wonder, You’re Learning: Mister Rogers’ Enduring Lessons for Raising Creative, Curious, Caring Kids. Hachette Books
Burnett, C. & Figliotti, J. (2020). Weaving Creativity Into Every Strand of Your Curriculum. Creativity and Education.
Douglas, D. (2018). The Power of Self-Advocacy for Gifted Learners: teaching the 4 essential steps to success. Free Spirit Publishing.
Rogers, C. R. (1954b). Toward a theory of creativity. ETC: A Review of General Semantics, XI(4), 249-260.
Torrance, E.P. & Salter, H. (1999). Making the Creative Leap Beyond…The Creative Education Foundation Press, Buffalo, New York.