Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Creative Solutions

This is what I’d like to say to all parents who plan for their children to be doctors and engineers, and want them to excel mathematically, but don’t realize the importance of creativity in their child’s life:

I went into teaching art because I believe that creativity is really important.  I believe it is as important as literacy and should be treated with the same respect. 

Ken Robinson, a leading expert in Creativity, reminds us that children starting kindergarten this year will graduate high school in 2025, and we have no idea what 2025 will look like.  Essentially, we’re educating children for a future that we may never see and cannot predict. 

Think about how much the world has changed since you were a kid.  Well, innovation hasn’t exactly slowed down since then either.  In fact, innovation is as important as ever.  Jonah Lehrer, another leading expert in Creativity, and the author of the bestseller book, Imagine, defines creativity as taking two things that existed before and connecting them in an entirely new way.  That’s what innovation and engineering is.  You may have been told that math and science does not coincide with the arts, but someone lied to you.  It all coincides because creativity is all about the process of imagining what didn’t exist previously and that term is not strictly adhered to the arts.

Ken Robinson also says, “if a person is not prepared to be wrong, they’ll never do anything great”.  That is profound in that a person cannot look at something that doesn’t work and not want to fix it.  We were born to be creative and if we don’t nurture children’s creativity, we’ll educate it right out of them.  The world does not need another Albert Einstein, we already have E-mc^2…we need someone new. 

You may have noticed that more people are getting college degrees than ever before. It’s no secret that jobs that once required a Bachelor’s Degree now require a Master’s.  And jobs that once required a Master’s Degree require a doctorate.  It’s a process of academic inflation.  Pretty soon, it won’t just matter how much academic ability one has, it’ll also equally depend on performance.  Our children will have to show product before he or she enters their desired field.  Employers will want to know, does this person have product to prove their skills?  A degree may get an interview scheduled, but it’ll be the portfolio that lands a job.

All day long, children have to show product at school; I would like to argue, that more of the time, the things that should be most valued in your child’s day is what is product of his or her imagination.  If there were only one thing for certain in education, it would be that when school and home are teaching the same valuable lesson to kids, learning is greatly more visible.  So, here are skills that will help your child be people who can produce product.  It’d be worth trying to get your child’s teachers on board, if they aren’t already.

While you are with your child, assess how much of your child’s activities encompass a playful attitude?  Does your child have adequate time to be silly?  Are you silly with your child?  Do you joke?  Do you laugh at your mistakes?  Do you take risks?  Are you prepared to be wrong?  15 minutes a day to be silly with your kid and model these skills (yes, skills) will make all the difference in your child’s education.  These skills prepare a child to take risks, without the fear of failure before he or she even commences, a necessary component of being a creative person.

Do you value your child’s interests?  A parent once asked me, “How can I make my child enjoy playing the piano?”  Well, it’s pretty hard to make a person like anything.  We can expose kids to the things that we are interested in and/or think is important for their lives, but heart goes a long way.  This is not to say that parents shouldn’t enforce things that children don’t like, just make sure that their voice is heard and that it matters.  This will look different in every house.

How about confidence?  Does your child possess it?  One of the best ways to help your child in this area is to ask your child, “what do you think?”  Being a confident person means having the strength to think for one’s self.  “Mom, should I brush my teeth, now?”  Respond with, “What do you think?”  The answer, may of course be yes, but give your child the chance to think for themselves rather than relying on you to make all judgment calls.  In creativity, it is judgment rather than rules that prevail.

And now, here is the most important question that I have.  How much down time does your child have?  You see, every creative journey begins with a problem.  Frustration is an important part of the creative process.  But, no one ever talks about that part.  People tend to say things, like “creativity comes easy to others; I’m just not a creative person.”  Have you ever thought like that?  If you have, then I have news for you; it’s not that you aren’t naturally creative, it’s that you gave up when it got too hard, or you didn’t have the time and energy to work it out.  Essentially, for whatever reason, you didn’t wrestle long enough with the problem, in order to find a creative solution.

Problem solving can wear a person down.  That’s when it’s best to take a break.  So after a long day of school or on the weekends, what is it that you still expect of your child?  It could be that after a day or week of utilizing his or her imagination to it’s fullest, rest and play is just what is needed.  Rest and play rejuvenates the creative spirit, often leading to the ah-ha moments.  You know, that moment when the light bulb goes on, and when all the information comes together and you curse yourself for not realizing sooner?

The hardest part about helping your child with this, is giving him or her adequate rest, but also not letting him or her give up, and making sure that your child has appropriate roles and responsibilities around the house at the same time.  The best thing that you can do, is recognize your child’s stress, help your child cope, and then eventually come back to the problem that needs to be solved--whether it deserves a creative solution or not.  It takes balance and it’s no easy feat…so, good luck!

With all of that being said, I wish that all parents could find time to work together with their child’s teacher to be their child’s cheerleader for furthering his or her creative spirit.  It'd be worth it.

It is what it is.