When I first saw the topic for this month, I thought, “Oh, goodie! Creativity!” Then I saw the word productivity. Uh. These two are not related. The more I thought about it however, the more I could see a link between the two.
But first, let me expound about my experience with creativity. When I was young (1950s), I was told, “You’re just like your mother. You can’t draw at all.” This was from my mom, so I figured she should know. When I was skipped from early first grade to late second grade, I was put into a classroom with a girl who could draw like a professional. In second grade. This only reinforced my belief in my ineptitude. Fast forward to 1974. In an attempt to add elementary education to my list of certificates, I took a reading class and a drawing class. Guess what? I could draw! It was perfectionism that interfered with my developing that skill. I could never make it look the way I wanted. With the right instruction, however, I could make it look the way it really was. I think creativity is similar. My mom taught me to sew when I was nine, and I have sewn ever since. She told me her mom could make her own patterns and create anything. On my father’s side, my great-great-grandfather was a tailor. This kind of creativity was highly valued in the days before patterns. My grandmother learned to quilt from her grandmother and aunts who ran a boarding house after the tailor died. I have inherited the obsession with cutting up fabric and sewing it back together. It is more environmental than genetic, although it tends to skip a generation.
As a teacher of children with behavior issues, I found the need for creativity. A friendly psychologist, Tom Mabee, once said, “We find out they don’t like oatmeal, so we serve it with raisins or put sugar on it, or bake it in a cake. They aren’t going to learn if we just keep serving them the same food.” He was referring to reading. Luckily, I began to attend conferences and I learned about learning disabilities. I began to teach everything differently.
As a stay-at-home parent, I found my children loved anything to do with crafts, cooking, and painting. So we pretty much did it every day. I didn’t care what their products looked like. I loved them because they reflected each personality so distinctively. We made Christmas ornaments in the fall, play dough in the winter, and painting as often as I was willing to clean up the mess. I wasn’t really trying to encourage creativity, but their behavior was so much better when they had something specific to do. I had not yet realized that any of my children were gifted.
I returned to school and learned about computer programming. Here was another demand for creativity. There was not just one answer to every problem. The more I could think like a machine, the more my programs ran. I taught high school for two years with students who kept wanting me to give them the “right” answer. I refused.
I finally landed in early childhood special education. I love preschool kids because you can see changes within weeks. Whenever we did an art project, I would make a point of complimenting each kid on something different. “You have such strong lines in your painting. I love the colors you chose. Look at those circles!” The children realized I wasn’t looking for a certain result and they responded. I could do the same with behavior. One year, I gave them green and blue paint and played La Mer by Debussy. Without any comments from me, the paintings all looked like ocean waves. That was a real eye-opener.
Late in my teaching career, I began to write. I needed a lot of encouragement, but I got it from teachers and mentors. I realized this week that I am a writer now, five years after retirement. Education will always be a love of mine, but writing requires tremendous creativity and support. Regardless of the mode they choose, the best support we can give our gifted children is noticing their creativity.
Productivity can be unrelated to creativity, such as my productivity making cathode ray tubes at the Methode factory south of town. A group of college kids worked there in the summer, making the tubes and computer parts that probably don’t exist now. We were very productive, but I wouldn’t say it involved any creativity. And I come from family of people who started lots of things they didn’t finish. Is it productivity if it is something that never gets used?
However, productivity is important in the workplace of ideas. We need lots of new ideas to solve some of the problems that have plagued humanity for ages; waste, pollution, inequality, prejudice, and poverty, to name just a few. We can only draw upon the ideas that are out in the world at the time we are trying to solve these problems. If your child has a passion for Legos, for example, she might be the adult who solves affordable housing. An artist may grow up to illuminate some dark corners of our psyche. Musicians are already trying to create sounds of the universe. Will they help us understand chaos theory? Reading the biographies of famous scientists can show just how they were inspired and changed the world.
I think the best way to encourage creativity and productivity is to notice it. Call attention to it. Discourage perfectionism. Allow messes. Keep an open mind. Read about it. Practice it yourself and you will think of many more ways.
This blog is part of a blog hop by Hoagies Gifted Education Page.