Let Creativity Flow

“When teachers’ knowledge of themselves, their students and their professional skills do not align with the contexts in which they work there is little energy or psychic space left for being present to the learner and his learning. Both teacher and students are then deprived of creative exchange and connection between themselves, subject matter and context. (Carol R. Rodgers* and Miriam Raider-Roth)”

My dear friend and colleague Kevin Giddens posted this quote to his Facebook status a few weeks ago. It resonated with me on many levels. When my beliefs are not supported by the system I teach in, then I feel blocked; I feel frustrated. On this level of emotion I recognize that my needs for freedom and creativity are stunted because I do not feel heard by my educational community. If I am not heard, if my teaching beliefs are not valued or seen, then my creative energy cannot flow. When creativity does not flow, both teaching and learning are in jeopardy.

As a teacher trainer in Korea, I hear a version of this sentiment on a regular basis: “We don’t have the time to be creative and make new material because we have so much to do beyond teaching our classes. Not only do we have to teach, but we also have to take care of after school study classes, as well as tonnes of bureaucratic paperwork. Sometimes we’re at school until 11pm! How can we be expected to be creative?”

These teachers crave creativity.  They want to connect. They want to help their students learn. They want to be passionate teachers, but where does the “energy or psychic space left for being present to the learner and his learning” come into play in such a reality?

The energy and space comes from knowing that they are not alone in their quest for creativity and connection. It comes from knowing that there are teachers out there who have the same aspirations. As teachers, “we are our best resources”, but this does not have to be a solitary affair. “We” includes our community. This is a community of like-minded colleagues. It is a community in search of a better way. You can create this community.

We find these community members by speaking out, and sharing our fears and desires. These members may be at your schools, at training courses, and in professional organizations such as KOTESOL or TESOL. Once you speak out, you can be heard. You have taken the risk, and you realize that you are not alone. You invent your own personal peer support network. This is where creativity is possible. When your aspirations align with those of others, creativity can flow.

Creativity = Change

You make that change happen.

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2 thoughts on “Let Creativity Flow

  1. Beautifully written Josette :) I believe that our friendship, born out of the desire for professional development that led us to SIT, is a testament to the empowering nature of shared reflection in community. Our talks over dinner and coffee during my time here in Korea has inspired many eclectic input sessions and kept the creative flame alive in times when it otherwise may have blown out. I’m particularly interested in the power of cooperative reflection. Personally I’ve found that “solitary” reflection doesn’t work nearly as well for me as does “sharing with a colleague.”

    My most recent attempt at professional development speaks to this. I’ve never been able to keep a teaching journal. However this semester, being faced with an onslaught of challenges in my new context I realized that it was reflect or else. So I began to write Mike Griffin, a friend and colleague, an email of my thoughts. His job has been simply to act as a sounding board – receiver- audience for my thoughts. He also holds me accountable which in my case has been crucial. If I don’t “have to do it” I won’t. Anyways, for the first time in my life I’ve been actively journaling about teaching and have found the process to be quite rewarding. I had thought that I just had a preference for oral reflection however I’ve learned that I have a preference for collaborative reflection – no matter the medium.

    This new found reflective practice has led to an interesting realization. You mentioned the need for “a community of like-minded colleagues” and “aligned aspirations” as a recipe for creativity and change. While I don’t disagree with the value added by sharing a core set of beliefs – I’ve been surprised to find that only through working in a context where my beliefs don’t align have I been inspired to throughout develop my reflective practice. And in doing so have realized that much of my inspiration has come not from my “like-minded colleagues” but at times by “different-minded colleagues.” So I guess my learning from this semester is that the friction created when beliefs don’t align can create sparks that, when fed with the kindling of reflective practice, can create fires of creativity :)

    1. Kevin thank you so much for your thoughtful, and thought provoking reply. It reinforces the idea that has been rattling around in my mind recently about the importance collaborative reflective practice. In a sense, this is why I have this blog. It is my way to get my thoughts out there, see how others will creatively respond, and in turn see how I will creatively respond to them. Your comments make this case in point.

      You helped me realize that misalignment, or not sharing the same core beliefs, is not the end of the road. Although I used to know this, and have been an advocate of this concept in other areas in my life, when it comes to education, it is easy to feel like it’s me against an all mighty regime. You reminded me that there is another level to this feeling of creative frustration: the level where we create a way to work with the tension. As Tim Gunn says, “Make it work.” Creative tension + reflection = making it work.

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