Really? I can do that?

Unrestricted creativity, can we really give that to our students anymore? They are so structured and told how to do everything step by step these days that when they are given just a little room to breath they do not know what to do with themselves. Working in an elementary school as a teacher who is supposed to teach using creativity I see this everyday. I ask students to imagine a picture in their heads or think of a rhythm, they cant do it! I get blank faces waiting for me to tell them exactly what they need to do..is it me? Am I restricting them so much in their creative freedom that I’m creating a generation of musical robots? Please oh no, the robots are really going to take over the world!
I do a project at the beginning of each year right before quarter grades close where students get into groups, write their own rhythms, then pick their own instrumentation and practice then perform for the class. I say to them “write me a rhythm” and half of them ask me “What should I write?” After much direction on what a rhythm is and how to write it I get the same response “ssooo, what should I write?”. Really? I have to walk you through it holding your hand? Some I know it is because they are afraid to get it wrong even though there is no right or wrong but some..some just don’t even know how to think of it, how to even start picking a note or rest to start with.
The same story can be found in a band or choir, we start them off by drilling notes, drilling scales..telling them how a song should sound like but when is that time we need to let them foster their creativity? Let them discover what it is all about on their own developing their own thought process.
We as teachers are required to provide a classroom where structure rules in order to create a calm and successful atmosphere. How do we create structure with still allowing room for students to think outside of the box, be innovative, and not get nervous when the answer they provide is neither right nor wrong? Students should not be given a project where they are asked to create and look to the teacher for complete creative guidance through every single step, they need to hear what’s expected, told to go above and beyond and actually go above and beyond. We need to create students who are independent, confident thinkers not afraid to express their thoughts and ideas. Give them a jumping platform and let them float above it, that’s what we should be striving for. Our students won’t know what it’s like to think outside of the box if we don’t let them create and discover more, strive to be better no matter what.
So as you walk into your classroom think to yourselves, how can you give students tools to let them flourish? what has to happen in order for a student to become an independent thinker? how can we foster creativity without sacrificing the structure and order in our schools?

One thought on “Really? I can do that?

  1. Mike Soskil says:

    A few years ago there was a study done (I believe it was the TIMMS study) that looked at science teaching in different countries. One of the findings was that while US teachers planned lessons with higher-order thinking skills only slightly less than teachers in other countries, when it came time to implement those lessons higher order thinking was almost never expected of students. In other words, when students struggled, complained, etc., US teachers give hints, help, etc. and almost never allow students to learn to think on their own. What you are describing is the result. I see the same thing in my own 5th grade classroom. It takes months to even make a dent in the lack-of-thinking habit that students come to me with. Eventually each year I start to see a difference, though. We need to keep at it. Start with lessons that will allow for “small wins” and build confidence. Let kids fail, and encourage the heck out of those who succeed. Eventually we’ll see a change in attitudes.

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