How to Unlock Your Creativity

Kevin Ashton says creativity isn’t magic. His book, How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention and Discovery explores many examples and shows that humans don’t wait for some kind of divine inspiration and then mystically start creating. The idea comes first, but it’s only a seed. Tenacious hard work through a series of small steps creates the final product.

When I create, I make something new. Most of us have some experience of this through cooking. We get the idea, we assemble the needed materials and we work through the steps of a recipe to make something yummy. But becoming a good cook doesn’t happen magically. You need to create many dishes, and you’ll have some failures (maybe some spectacular ones – like a cake I made as a teenager where I used salt instead of sugar. Oops!) before you can call yourself a cook.

Yup, I made this!

My writing is the same. I love it, and it’s a satisfying way to take an idea, expand it and synthesize previous thinking. But I’ll tell you, it’s hard work. Successful writers back this up when they talk about the discipline and time needed to create an article, essay, poem, novel or story.

I have lots of ideas from many different sources. Ideas are easy, they’re lying all over the place. I’ll confess that there are 37 draft ideas waiting in my blog draft folder. It’s another thing to work them up into a post.  I try to nail down the purpose of my post and sketch out a framework before I begin. I want to write a good lede.  What actually happens is a lot of back and forth. I write, I delete, I cut and paste, I preview the post, I re-read and rewrite until finally it’s good enough. Once I hit “publish” there’s a lot of satisfaction. I created something new for me.

Creativity isn’t something only special people are born with. We all have it. It’s in the ideas we see and seek out. It’s in the time we insist on setting aside and spend working through the steps to figure things out and make something new.  We cultivate it by trying and failing and trying again.

Maybe you’re an educator creating a blog for your classroom community or an amazing learning experience for your students. Maybe you want to write a YA story. Maybe you want to check into the maker community.  Go for it. Start with the idea and get tenacious.

It’s Summer – Take Some Time Off

Everyone needs vacation. There is no substitute for forcing your mind and body away from work, even if just for a week. (For the record, I believe people need way more than that.) Some folks say they just can’t. I don’t get that.

Photo Credit: anna_t via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: anna_t via Compfight cc

There was a recent exchange on Twitter about the following blog post, first shared by David Didau and Julie Balen.  Conspicuous Work: Do We Compound the Work Issue Ourselves?  (by James Theobald) It’s worth a read.We live in a world where those perceived to work hard get lots of kudos, including educators. Sometimes I feel as if we’re all part of a giant, unspoken conspiracy to work harder and get less sleep because that’s just what we do. I don’t get that either.

Reactions to the article from Julie and others in my PLN centered around whether doing what you love is “work.” That’s an interesting question. It reminds me a brief Twitter conversation I had with Gerald Aungst about compliance vs. commitment. He helped me see that compliance is when others make us do it, even if we know it’s good for us, and commitment is when we make ourselves do it.

Every summer there seems to be some handwringing by educators and other members of the public about teacher vacations. Most educators don’t go into work in the summer. After the craziness of the last month of school, they head home and can do what they wish for the next 9-11 weeks. It’s one of the fantastic privileges of being an educator.  Many choose to take courses, work on prep for September, read professional books, noodle around on their blog – there are lots of options!  Some of that stuff is fun, and some you have to do so you feel energized and prepared for the first day of school. That’s commitment. I totally get that.

Still, I stand by my first sentence.  Whatever we decide to do with vacation, we need make sure that some of it is really vacation. Don’t think about your job for a week (or three). Can you do it?

Passion Lives Here!

From the Fresh Hues Blog

From the Fresh Hues Blog

I often read or hear that our educational system is “broken”.  Business writers, educational bloggers, government functionaries, students and even teachers and principals seem to hold this view. It’s a view that’s seductive when I encounter something in my job that doesn’t work right, or when I hear a story about a student whose school experience is sad, difficult or even terrible.  There’s an unrealistic comfort in imagining that if we could just blow everything up, we could fix every problem.

But I really don’t want to go there. I spent the last two weeks working with incredible educators who showed me that our system isn’t remotely broken. How can it be, when we have such impassioned, motivated, engaged and intelligent people working not just in our district, but all over Ontario, Canada and North America?

I see people in our system who believe deeply in the power of public education. They want to learn, even when it’s challenging and difficult. They want to understand the latest educational thinking and work to integrate those ideas into their practice. It is a privilege to work and learn alongside them.

Our district is the midst of changing how we support schools through School Self Assessment and staff collaborative inquiry. We are investigating how staff can think deeply about their learning needs vis a vis student needs as shown through data. Our K-12 interdisciplinary team of consultants, instructional coaches, special assignment and student success teachers and system principals has an important role to play in this learning approach.

Sister Mary Lauretta, who was a Science teacher in Wisconsin, famously said, “To be successful, the first thing to do is fall in love with your work.
”  The people I work with embody this concept. Their passion will ignite the passion of others and make a real difference for students.