What Are The Ingredients Of A Creative Teacher?

by Melissa Goodwin,

There is a lot of talk about creativity these days.

Creativity drives innovation, it sparks new thinking, it enriches our lives, and it connects us to other human beings.  While this is all wonderful and true, schools and educators find great difficulty in figuring out how to get more creative.

Since creativity is individualized and it expresses itself in each person differently, it becomes difficult for educational systems entrenched in testing and standards to figure out how to unlock creativity in students. Unfortunately, there is no ideal top down solution. Creative classrooms start and end with creative teachers. Luckily, creative teachers can be cultivated.

Here are three ingredients to cultivate creative teachers.

3 Seeds Of A Creative Classroom

1. Awareness

“If you don’t know where you’re going, the road’ll take you there.” – the Cheshire Cat to Alice

Any math teacher worth their salt will exclaim, “math is everywhere!” They see geometry on a pool table, they see calculus as a car slows to a stop, they hear it in the toe tapping of the clarinet player, they see simple math in giving change at the store.

They know what math looks like in real time and in real life because they have spent the time studying, practicing, and becoming aware of the many ways math is relatable. Creativity is no different. A creative teacher is aware of what creativity looks like for themselves as well as how it might manifest itself in others. A creative teacher always keeps their radar up for “interestingness.”

2. Empowerment

Empowerment is not a gift bestowed upon you; empowerment comes from within.

Every individual is filled with greatness and flaws. An empowered person has the courage to accept themselves for who they are and chooses a growth mindset.  A growth mindset says creativity begets more creativity. A growth mindset says you can actually learn to be more creative. A growth mindset says you can create conditions in which creativity flourishes.

3. Practice

This is the kicker. It’s not enough to just read about creativity or to scour Pinterest for hours each day. Creativity requires getting in there. It gets messy.  It requires some failing forward. That being said, there is real joy in creative practice. The act of making something, however small the act may be, changes something within. It lights a fire.

One way to start a creative practice is with a little copying. Children do this instinctively. They trace letters, they repeat movie lines (sometimes with perfect voice inflections) and song lyrics. Copying allows an individual to learn the ropes. Many great painters learned first as understudies, copying their masters.

The next step is a little something called remixing. The art of the remix is to take something that already exists and make it new. This might be a song, it might be blackout poetry, it might be improving on a coffee cup. Remixing is different than copying in that an individual is adding a little of themselves into the mix. It’s like an homage to the original artist, but with a little kick.

Remixing fuels creativity, and serves to spark others. This is evident in the viral videos that arise each day with parents, co-workers, and children dancing, lip syncing, and singing to remixed works.

The last way a teacher might practice their creativity is through combining. A great example of a combination is when Steve Jobs merged the idea of a graphical interface with the idea of a computer as a household appliance.  The combination emerged as the wildly successful Macintosh computer.

Combinations are powerful forms of creativity. Unlikely pairings can often yield interesting results. It often takes many trials and failing forward to get the combination just right, but as the saying goes, “there is no glory in practice, but without practice, there is no glory.”

It is said that we are all born creative, but it can get buried and trampled in this modern world. Creativity thrives in classrooms where there is courage, awareness, and a culture that supports creative practice. That courage, awareness and culture starts with the teacher. When teachers light their own internal fires, it serves as a beacon for others.

Today is a good day to begin.

The Challenge Starting February 2, 2015, 21 Days Committed to Practicing Creative Habits: Enroll now in the 21 Day Teacher Empowerment Challenge.

If you are looking for inspiration and some guidance to infuse these seeds of creativity into your teaching practice, your students — and your classroom — here’s your chance!

How It Works

  1. Each day you will receive an email that encourages a creative way of thinking or acting.
  2. Each day you are encouraged to share your experience in our online communities in the spirit of sharing, cooperation and collaboration.
  3. At the end of the challenge you will be energized to continue to practice creative habits every day!

You Will Receive

  1. Daily emails filled with tips on how to be creative, inspired and motivated.
  2. Online Community to share your creativity with other teachers from around the world
  3. A 21 Day Worksheet to keep track of your progress.

Enroll now!

Adapted image attribution flickr user denisekrebs