INTERVIEWS 2: Brian Barrett

Creative Interview

Tendring Technology College

Brian Barrett is currently a teacher of Psychology at Tendring Technology College in England. He is American by birth and moved to the U.K. to get some experience in a foreign education system in order to help develop both personally and professionally, and is currently looking into completing a Master's degree in Creative Curriculum Development.

Creativity is one of Barrett's primary focuses in teaching. He has have been involved in creating and delivering workshops for the entire school as part of a creative curriculum group, mentored colleagues on creative lesson solutions, and prides himself in always finding new ways to teach lessons. He spends time researching the current trends on creativity in the classroom across many education systems, and has written a few articles about creativity as a catalyst for challenge within lessons as well.

Barrett feels that creative expression has declined, and that a majority of children are not exposed to creative opportunities.

"Why would a student need to be creative if the environment they are in does not require it?" he says. "All too often in education, students simply need to memorize information and recall said information on an assessment or standardized test. As every student has the capacity for creative thought processes, it is essential that they are in an environment that fosters those brain regions to most effectively develop.

"I feel the main cause for concern is that students, more and more, are not being taught in stimulating environments. I feel both educational and domestic environments are paramount in stimulating creativity, and are the cause for lack of creative expression in students."
We asked Barrett whether he thinks technology is also a cause for concern.

"Technology itself does not reduce creativity," he responded, "but the over-reliance on technology to do the thinking for students does negatively impact creativity. Think about the last time you saw a cashier calculate your change in their head and tell you without the register. I recently had this experience in a bar and I gave the bartender a tip. Think about how impersonal and disjointed learning math is as a result of the dependence of calculators. All you need to do is punch in some numbers and the device thinks for you. You then write down an answer with no understanding of how you got it.

"I see this on a daily basis with students in my lessons. Students constantly say they are not creative, but if they had more opportunities to develop those skills they could be. This is where technology can increase creativity. Since creativity is the result of a mosaic of cognitive processes, as long as these are developed a student can be creative.

"Technology can play a crucial role to help students display that creativity in a multitude of ways. Technology allows students to access a large quantity if information quickly, which helps them assess and contrast arguments which allow them to begin the process of problem solving. Even when students use Google, they still need to know how to search for relevant answers, and how to refine a search and make it efficient."
We then asked Barrett what advice he might give to educators looking to cultivate creative habits in their students.

"I would urge teachers to implement research-based problem solving projects that force students to incorporate all aspects involved with creativity," Barrett says. "I give my students a question they are going to be assessed on. For instance, 'Devise and carry out a study into a topic in social psychology.' Leaving it open to each student's individual interests enables engagement and motivates them because the teacher is not rigidly telling them what to do."
Barrett says these types of projects and questions help students learn in a more organic and natural process, one that enables them to succeed across the disciplines.

"I know of teachers who have implemented this strategy in multiple subjects, including math, English, history, psychology, and economics.
"With history, for example, giving students critical thinking and problem solving opportunities can develop key components of creativity. I show my students a picture of Japan dated 1930. Next I give them X amount of time to find out 5 key facts about Japan which have to cover several issues: economic, geographic, cultural, social, and militaristic. I then ask them what problems Japan is going to have to deal with in the next 5 years, 10 years, and 15 years. Students also need to think about how Japan could solve these issues in a realistic way. In discussions, students have described the Invasion of Manchuria by Japan, which is a topic on their exams. Think of how different this method is compared to simply reading or watching a video or lecturing. It is this level of activity I would urge teachers to implement in their classrooms. The rewards and confidence students develop is inspiring."

So, assuming you are appropriately fostering creativity in your students, can you measure your progress as an educator?

Since creativity is more of a "mosaic of cognitive processes" than a single brain function, Barrett says, it can be assessed and should be the focus of curricula.

"Assessments need to focus on evaluating a student's ability to perform various cognitive processes, including problem solving, critical thinking, assessing, making judgements, assimilating new information, pattern processing, comparing and contrasting ideas, application of evidence, risk taking, adaptability, perseverance and reflection," he says. "An assessment focused on these issues would be more in-line with what employers continually say they need in future employees."

Barrett believes a creativity assessment platform needs to be developed that is rigorous, unpredictable, and accessible for all students, and measures how well students are prepared to face a future that has yet to be defined.

"I once asked a lead history examiner why there was not a more creative assessment for students in England," Barrett says. "He replied, 'It will be too difficult to standardize it and it would cost too much money and time to develop it. The government wants a reliable quick way to measure how well it is doing in regards to improving students results.' How can we expect anything to improve when governments cannot accept that things need to change or refuse because it will cost too much money? The definition of madness is to do the same things over and over and expect different results. It is time to change the way we assess students."

Creativity is paramount to anything the current education systems in the United States and England, among others, have developed. The focus in these places is on results. If a certain percentage of students do not achieve a set grade, the learning institution is failing. How can such a shallow focus and measure prepare students for anything but taking tests? How often in a job does a boss ask his employees, tell me all you know about the League of Nations? I am reminded of a cartoon I recently found. In the picture there is a job interview for a business job with a recent college graduate. The interviewer asks, "What life skills do you have that will help with this job?" The student responds, "Tests...I can pass tests." I think this epitomizes the current climate and culture that over emphasizes the importance of said tests. I understand the need to have assessments but it is essential for the future of societies that people are able to be creative in ways that appropriately prepare them for life, being taught and assessed on creative skills then we would see a different kind of world.
With regards to the barriers I have encountered with creative teaching there are two key issues. First and foremost students are simply spoon fed in other classes so when they arrive in my class and have to think for themselves they find it a struggle and resist and withdraw. I takes a few weeks before they get used to it and deal with the frustration they feel about how I answer questions with questions. I try to help them appreciate the uneasiness they feel and embrace it. I know I am not the only teacher who finds creativity essential, but the majority of teachers in my school usually refer to the second key barrier to creative education: exams.

In order for creativity to thrive we need to have a complete educational paradigm shift in how we stigmatize creativity and regard it as an ability for the arts that has no place in core subjects such as Math, English, and Science.

In order to promote creativity, Barrett urges, education needs to be more organic and free flowing. "How free are students when they have to be herded around by a bell? Why not let students go between classes as they see fit or do away with rigid schedules and let them learn at their own pace? What if a group of students want to learn more about photosynthesis—could they not stay and talk more with their teacher?"

Barrett says class time could be structured in a more "elementary fashion" in which learning through discovery enables students to develop creatively.

"It is amazing how much resistance I get when I bring my class outside to help them understand a topic. I was told it was not conducive to learning. Excuse me? Why not? Maybe other teachers need to be more creative and take risks."

Adult students were at one time, children. Could it be essential to foster creativity very early on in life? "It has long been understood that the most important factor in student achievement is parental involvement," he says. "Parental involvement is as essential to academic success as vitamins are to the body. This holds true for creativity.

"I have some friends who have two children. They have decided to limit his use of technology and promote his own independence and interests in the arts. They focus on educational toys, musical instruments, art sets and just discovering. They only let him watch television for an hour a day and are actively involved with him. They read to him often and help promote his imagination. He could speak clearly and intelligently six months earlier than other children, and his mom tells me his confidence is such that he easily approaches other kids and makes friends. His level of imaginative play is what many children need to develop, as imagination is a key component of creativity. Parents need to understand the importance of getting children to have imaginative play, discover, and make mistakes."

Lastly, Barrett spoke about the value of creativity in a person's educational and professional careers.

"I think creativity has been undervalued with regards to a majority of professions and jobs. People sometimes are creative and have no awareness of how or why they are creative. All academia is focused on is about grades and statistics that tell everyone you are smart."

"The focus on academic success is not conducive to societal progress. Innovation and patents are stalling at a time when our society needs to develop something the world needs. The world needs to view and create something that will help preserve our planet, how can that happen if all students leave college with is the ability to pass tests?"

"I am afraid this is not shifting; if anything, it is shifting more towards the assessment side. In the United Kingdom, a new curriculum is being introduced by 2015 that focuses on rote memorization and being assessed after a two-year course by a timed essay exam. All a student needs to do to pass these courses is Google facts and regurgitate them. Many education institutions in America take this route of standardized tests that dictates the evaluation of the school and the teacher.

"Until our society gets over this attachment with having to quantify every aspect of learning, we will lag behind nations like Finland and fall behind the world with innovation and discovery."

Brian Croxall

ProfHacker blog

Professor Brian Croxall contributes to The Chronicle of Higher Education's ProfHacker blog and serves as Digital Humanities Strategist in the Robert W. Woodruff Library and Lecturer of English at Emory University. He is currently working to establish the new, Mellon Foundation-sponsored Digital Scholarship Commons (DiSC). Along with developing and managing digital scholarship projects in collaboration with faculty, graduate students, librarians, developers, and more, Croxall teaches a new undergraduate "Introduction to Digital Humanities."

We talked about the various ways digital resources have changed English students and whether they blunt or facilitate creativity.

Croxall says he has not noticed a decline in creativity amongst his students. If anything, he says, students are more creative as a result of access to new digital resources.

In the fall of 2011, Croxall required his Introduction to Digital Humanities class to read Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. Some students, he says, had already read the book three or four times, and expected nothing new to ensue from another class discussion or essay assignment. They could analyze the plot, the characters, and the themes of the book in their sleep.

But Croxall had something up his sleeve. After finishing the novel, students were required to use Google Earth to map the journey of each character. Students appreciated the opportunity to think differently—and creatively— about a familiar subject, and to discuss new ways of, well, discussing a text. Most students had not been given such opportunities in the past.

Croxall says he first became interested in the digital humanities when he read a book by Stanford professor Franco Moretti called Graphs, Maps, Trees. In it Moretti argues that literature scholars should stop reading books and start counting, graphing, and mapping them instead. In place of the traditionally selective literary canon of a few hundred texts, Moretti offers charts, maps and time lines, developing the idea of "distant reading" into a full-blown experiment in literary historiography, in which the canon disappears into the larger literary system. Charting entire genres—the epistolary, the gothic, and the historical novel—as well as the literary output of countries such as Japan, Italy, Spain, and Nigeria, he shows how literary history looks significantly different from what is commonly supposed and how the concept of aesthetic form can be radically redefined. Croxall says the book blew his mind and inspired him to view his own work in a similar way: Instead of working with ten novels, he could work with 300,000.

There have been fears of
proliferation of the written word since Plato, Croxall says, but,
ultimately, "having more
information is a boon to creativity, an opportunity to experiment and play with what we had before."

Inevitably, "playing with what we had before" requires repurposing old material in new, creative ways, which smacks of plagiarism in many cases. But this is where it gets interesting.

Another English professor Croxall knows, Paul Frise, teaches a class on Victorian fiction in which he assigns his students a novel and then bans them from reading it. Instead, students are required to use digital resources, parsing techniques, and online analysis tools to achieve some semblance of understanding of the novel through the work of basically anyone but themselves. Croxall says this exercise inevitably leads to some very creative interpretations.
"Remixing is a creative endeavor. Plagiarism can be a creative endeavor— but only if the student intends it to be."

So why don't we see students making more of the digital humanities in this way? Maybe it's not the students who are at fault, but rather the system.

"It's not that students aren't creative," Croxall says, "it's that they're rational." When students learn all semester how to structure an academic essay and then are asked to be creative, they get uncomfortable. When they spend their lives being told not to plagiarize and then learn it's part of the new digital literacy, they don't necessarily jump at the opportunity to use it.
What's worse, often we don't realize the value of creativity until we've been out of school for half a career.

"If I were a K-12 teacher I would speak about teaching to the test and how students grow up, say, wanting to be a doctor and thinking creativity has no place in that. You study to pass the MCAT, and when you are put on the spot and asked to be creative, you don't like it. It's only once we are in the real world that we see creativity as something to be valued. It's not so much that creativity has been undervalued in the past but that it is undervalued in our past."
We then asked Croxall what sorts of strategies he uses to promote creative thinking in his own classroom.

He says he likes to have his students look at a variety of digital products, whether it's putting materials online and archiving them digitally or using new software to create a presentation. It's a useful way to help students identify the approach they want to adopt for their own projects.
"I always use the same silly analogy," he says, "about going to the hair dresser and flipping through catalogues to get an idea of what kind of style you want."

At one education institution for adults, graduate students are required to turn in PDF copies of their dissertation; paper versions are not accepted. The traditional written dissertation still has its place, he says, but it is no longer the only option.
"I don't think that the dissertation is broken so much as it is broadened. Just as in, say, the 1970s we embraced critical theory, and queer theory in the 1990s, now we are embracing a different kind of thinking behind the dissertation."

In response to our question about time spent indulging creative impulses in the classroom, Croxall says it depends on the structure of the course. "When I teach my survey of American literature, and I have only thirteen weeks to cover 1860 to the present, I use the lecture format. But for most of my classes, I almost always use the discussion model."

We asked him if he noticed a difference in the quality—read: creativity— of work produced from students in lecture-based classes and students in discussion-based classes. He said he did, but it mostly had to do with the kind of assessments used in each class. In his survey on American Literature, he administers exam essay questions and far fewer papers in order to test big-picture ideas. "I try to get students to regurgitate major concepts," he says, since the volume of material covered is so high. In his discussion-based classes, students are asked to write more papers and to spend more time exploring topics in depth, which requires more creative thinking. So, in a sense, the type of assessment students expect determines the level of creativity they will strive for.

Carrie Wible

Professional Music Teacher

Carrie Wible is an educator, writer, musician, and mother. She has a B.A. in music from Kent State University and a Master's in Teaching and Learning with Technology from Ashford University. Carrie has been teaching music lessons and has taught in the classroom for a combined total of 25 years.

Wible gave her opinion on whether she thinks creativity is declining in students.

"I agree that creativity seems to be halted or stifled in many students," she says. "As a teacher, I found that students were more worried about the 'right' answer (the one they thought I wanted to hear) rather than the answer they truly wanted to give. I believe education systems and curriculum often stress 'one answer is right' as opposed to thinking outside of the box. This is baffling considering many of the aptitude tests require students to do just that. While video games and television may have a causal explanation for the lack of creativity, the opposite could also be true of these outside interests.

Many younger students I have taught will act out scenes from their favorite shows and expand upon the dialogue allowing them to be creative, but with an outside starting point."

As far as technology is concerned, Wible believes it has already made a positive impact on creativity:

"Technology allows students to take their imaginations in places it couldn't just a few years ago. In my classes, I would always incorporate some sort of technology into a unit. For example, one of my classes was learning about popcorn. I took them to the computer lab where they were to find clip art or draw a picture of why they thought popcorn popped. They already knew the real reason, so they had to use their imagination to show me. This was especially great for those students who were not artists. I had a range of answers and pictures of alien popcorn creatures hiding in kernels to a firecracker being hidden inside."

To her fellow educators, Wible would advise, first and foremost, to not shy away from teaching creatively. "For me, what worked was asking the students to do something for me. If I broke a heel (more times than one would imagine), I would exasperatedly ask them to invent something to keep it on, or design a shoe that will never lose a heel. When I got a new puppy (and brought her in for the students to love on) I had my class work in groups to design the perfect doggy house. I found that when I ask them to help me they were more eager to impress me and outdo each other than if I wrote on the board: 'Design a dog house.'"

"In my opinion," she adds, "students (especially when adults) need to be able to relate things to their lives when it comes to being creative. I would try to stimulate their imaginations with small things such as asking what they ate for breakfast and how would they make it better, or what ice cream flavor they would love to be made. They were usually general ideas, not too specific, so that every student had a chance to succeed.

"But challenges would arise if a student drew a blank and withdrew. Occasionally, a student would become upset that others were making 'better' projects, and did not feel they could keep up. This is when I decided to always give my students a choice when it came to small fun projects to allow their own style come through. I would ask they write, draw, create, or orally explain their thought processes."

We were curious how Wible divides her class time between structured, assessment-targeted lecturing and allowing students to indulge their creative impulses.

"I definitely agree that class time should allow more room for students to nurture their creativity, rather than a large chunk of the day be on hard facts," she said. "All of the different subjects thrown at students during the day should be enough to stimulate something in them."

One thing that gets left behind, once the measuring begins, is creativity. "I do not think creativity is measurable," Wible says. "Being creative is not something that should be forced out of students. While I have told students in the past to be creative, what I mean is they should strive to go a different direction than what they would normally do. For example, if I asked students to draw a bear in the woods, while a bear and woods would be correct, it isn't creative. Students adding clothes, a cabin in the background, or a U.F.O are being creative."

"I would worry if it were part of standard assessment, and cannot imagine how large a rubric would need to be to even begin to grade creativity. I asked for a picture of a bear in the woods.

Should Andrea get an 'A' because she added Goldilocks, while John gets a 'B' for only drawing what I asked? Also, what I think is creative another teacher may criticize. I think Goldilocks was a great addition, but Mrs. Smith might be annoyed because she only asked for a bear in the woods."
Students in high stress personal situations need extra help to promote their creativity when learning, Wible says. "A teacher needs to realize that although Susie is the same age as her peers, she is not developmentally at the same level as her peers, and I will need to adjust the activity adjust for her. Susie is going to need to learn social and emotional cues, if she hasn't had them at home, and will need to be taught to use her imagination. The teacher should be cognizant of

Susie's abilities and lower the expectations while she gains an idea of what her mind can do."
Even when we are adult learners, we began our journey as children. Wible says that the creative process really begins there. While having creative parents is wonderful, she says, not all children are blessed with them. "My own husband, while a great dad, is not very creative when it comes to relating to children," she says. "He can imagine building an underground movie theater using our basement as an access tunnel to walk the 500 feet to it, but when my 3 year olds hand him a plate of plastic food he is stumped at what to do. He often teases me about my ideas, but probably because they are more relatable to children."

It's up to educators, then, to pick up the slack.

Finally, we asked Wible about the role of creativity in her own area of expertise—music. Her response may come as a shock to those who view music as an inherently creative subject:

"In college, I was a music major, and being creative was acceptable, but only in certain cases. Those musicians that took matters into their hands to showcase their talents were fine in a recital, but annoying at best during orchestra practice. Understandably, when playing in an ensemble you wouldn't want the oboe player to play forte when the music says pianissimo for the sake of creativity."

When it comes to teaching, though, Wible says creativity is a must. "While there are guides and workbooks designed to aid teachers with lesson plans, it is up to the teacher to make them interesting and fun. When I look back upon my K-12 schooling, I realize my favorite teachers were the ones that were creative and inspired others to be so."

Charity Preston

Organized Classroom

The Organized Classroom's blog has so many creative ideas for the common things teachers have to teach to their students. Charity Preston has become renowned for her creative, clever and individual methods of teaching simple things to her students with creative methods. Recently, Charity put together an article on how to teach students about 'elapsed time' providing some creative 'clock' resources. Charity is passionate about teachers sharing creative ideas with each other because of her background.

"When I started teaching (which was just in the last decade), the internet didn't have the amount of teacher blogs or social media resources that we do now, so it was usually a teacher only being able to get new ideas from fellow teachers, the occasional workshop, or from a very expensive resource at the local teacher store."

Times have changed for Charity and her readers. "Now, with the web, teachers are being able to connect on so many levels and so many places that the ideas are overflowing and practical strangers are able to build on creative ways to teach the same concepts from one another, which not only helps the students of course, but it also keeps teachers fresh and excited to teach the same skill year after year."

Charity believes that classrooms today are quite different from when she was a grade school child, and yet certain elements will always be the same. "As a child, I do feel (children of my generation were) given more time and freedom to be more creative with projects, creative writing, and the like. Today it seems as though teachers have far less in the way of time or freedom even considering how to teach a concept. This applies when teaching adults as well as kids, she explains.

"Many learning institutions require a specific text series and will not allow teachers to stray from it at all," says Charity. "In my opinion, this definitely limits how creative students can be. But, as always, the best teachers find ways and time to sneak in creativity in everything they do. I think it can be done, but must be intentionally embedded within the lesson plans daily."

There are always new methods being employed to teach students. Often teachers teach younger children things by playing games with them (for example, Charity invented a 'wordaround' game to teach vocabulary). However, by the time children reach high school and later adult-hood, there seems to be less interest in game-playing. While some educators think there may be scope to reintroduce more game-playing for older grades and even adults, Charity is quite realistic about the attitudes of teens and adult learners.

"As a parent of a child currently in high school, I can say that she is far less enthusiastic about learning than ever, and some of that might be due to the fact that much of the day is spent in a lecture setting," Charity says.

As adults, this is how we go on to interact with our workplace. "On the other hand," says Charity, "most places of employment don't allow for 'game playing' during the work day (nor in adult education for that matter), so I can also see how secondary educators are also preparing teen students for the real world ahead too. I do feel that the retention of the materials at hand could be better learned by some students if there was more differentiation involved."

So, how does organization relate to creativity? Often, teachers and students alike think of creativity as "disorganized, intuitive, haphazard or uncontrollable". Can there be such a thing as organized creativity? Charity believes so.

"Organization and creativity can live in one space. How creative can you be when you are organizing? Many teachers employ this very tactic when they are attempting to maximize student leaning space when the space they have to work in is very tiny or oddly shaped. Even very creative thinkers usually have some sort of organized system for getting those creative thoughts from their mind onto a tangible workspace. Creative problem solving is a skill we should hone. In order to function the best in society, thinking outside of the box, while also knowing the organized logistics and history of the problem at hand, will make for the best solution finders".
There is a not-new but re-emerging theory that lecture and study time should be more responsive to moments when students may get a creative urge, but Charity believes there needs to be limits on this, for example, class time should be flexible, but only if the time allows for it.

"There are times where it is not in the best interest of the entire class for one student to allow the rest of the students' thought processes to go out in left field.

While I am definitely known for taking advantage of "teachable moments" and encouraging learning about specific student interests that have been expressed in and throughout a lesson, there will also be certain times when creative thinking is not appropriate to have a full blown-out discussion over. Of course, encouraging students to write down those thoughts to have a discussion about at a later time is always a great idea, and one that should always be encouraged".

Adult learners were once children and many adult students have children of their own. There are the parents' roles in harbouring creative expression in their children too. Even if a child's parents are not creative themselves, Charity feels parents who understand the importance of creative expression can benefit their kids' creative minds. This later will benefit them as adult learners.

"Just because students don't have highly creative parents, doesn't mean they aren't able to successfully be creative. They may have to adjust how they express that creativity if it is stifled in the home, but truly creative students will find a way to express that creativity in other ways or places (even in non-positive ways). While we would like to hope that parents would be supportive of creativity in their children, not all will understand or value it. Parents that are supportive about anything their child is or does will always have a better situation than those that do not, whether we are talking about creativity or any other qualities that specific child possesses".
How can creativity be encouraged in a student that is displaying this sort of impingement?

Charity believes it's just like any other skill. "Creativity can be encouraged and practiced. Having teachers and caregivers who cultivate creativity in a supportive way will help to strengthen it in students. Playing creative games, using lateral thinking, etcetera, is a perfect way to get learners thinking creatively, and discussing possible solutions for those types of games, word plays, and so on, is the key to getting students to begin to think creatively on their own."

Structuring effectively is the key, says Preston. "The teacher should always model first, then use scaffolded practice, then ask the students to model for them, before finally asking students to demonstrate their thought processes on their own. With enough practice, the creativity becomes intrinsic and students feel more confident in their own creative abilities as well."

Some teachers are suggesting that creativity been under-valued in the past, with a focus on academic performance over creative achievements. Charity feels that perhaps this is shifting.

"I believe there is more emphasis on academic performance over creative achievements. This is evident when academic institutions are making cuts in arts programming, in favour of high-stakes testing in core academic areas. Unfortunately I don't see it shifting in a positive way. There are even more cuts coming in the way of gifted education as well, where creativity is also honed. It is obvious that creativity is an important workplace skill, yet our current system of standardized testing actually focuses on lower level recall skills".

In the United States, the new National Common Core State Standards claim that they are more rigorous and focus on higher level thinking skills. Charity says that this all remains to be seen as the new assessments come out in the next several years.

"Creative thinkers are the key to finding new solutions to old problems. They will be the students who go on to cure cancer, figure out a way out of national debts, and hopefully ease the violence that seems to be so prevalent these days. By nurturing those creative problem-solving skills, we are encouraging our students to make the world a better place for us and for future generations. Hopefully we can start making the transition towards that emphasis in learning institutions as well."

Cheri Eplin

Living in the Moment

Cheri Eplin is a teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area, working in education management. She is also a freelance writer and has spent time as a principal and has also worked as a corporate wellness manager for Quantum, a global specialist in backup, recovery and archive. Cheri has spent years teaching in classroom situations and has witnessed the creative thought-process first hand in her students.

She says, "The minute my mom gave me pencil and paper, I never imagined a life without writing. The ultimate goal for me is to write about the things people care about most. Learning about people and discovering new places are two inspirational subjects that pull me to my computer and keep my fingers tapping on the keys. I live in Danville, California with my two amazing boys and am grateful to love what I do and do what I love: be a mom, teach, write, and constantly learn."

Cheri has chosen to share her thoughts on education and creativity. It has been said that creative thoughts can arrive at less predictable times than logical thoughts. Does this teacher think that class time should be more responsive to moments when students may get a creative urge? Does this apply to adult learners too?

Cheri says, "Absolutely." She believes that this is key, particularly when hiring good teachers. "Certainly, it's important to train teachers and give them a strong foundation for being effective leaders of change in technology and general curriculum, but it's the inquiry-based learning that's key, those 'teachable moments' that are longer lasting than mastering rote facts."

So what were things like when she started teaching 20 years ago? What would have been the definition of a 'creative' activity or class back then? Cheri says that times have certainly changed.

"Ha!" she says, "creativity would have meant getting students out of rows and into cooperative groups. The truth is, it's still a small part in looking at what can facilitate a creative classroom."
In today's world, what does Cheri think the current definition of a 'creative' activity or class might be? Cheri says, 'technology' is a tool that keeps coming into focus for her students, whether they are adults or younger.

"When looking at 'creativity' now, technology is the biggest factor in the equation," explains Cheri. "Allowing students to integrate technology into the creative solution, for example, rather than a written report on 'Fly Fishing as a Future Career', the student may use the internet to gather facts, find whose key in the field, contact the person, get all the info needed and then present a 'prezi', for example, an interactive 'power point on steroids' storytelling tool that shares collected ideas in a virtual context."
There have been studies that indicate that creative people have a tendency to over-react to stimulation. Does Cheri agree? If so, has she noticed this in children and teens when compared with adult learners? Cheri confirms that she does not notice this particular trait.

"I don't agree. Creative people - in my opinion - filter out the stimulation and find what fuels their fire, what works for them. There's an intensity involved with creative people that can either be fostered and can flourish or be stifled, depending on the educational leader and the values of the educational environment."

Does Cheri believe that it is essential for students to have creative parents when they are children in order to thrive? Do children that have parents who understand the importance of creative expression benefit creatively from this?

"Supportive parents are key,"
explains Cheri.

"I think it may be more natural for a child of creative parents to thrive and feel good about his or her pursuit of creativity but I have seen plenty of 'outliers', children who are creative without creative parents and if parents seek to understand, it can be wonderful. However, if parents do not understand, it can provide plenty of stress for the student. This is true as with a high-performing school or district can be a major stumbling block for those who don't fit in because their intellect is in the arts (for example) rather than in traditional studies of math and science."

This can then affect learning as adults as not every student has an ideal childhood. It has been indicated that negative early experiences early on can stunt creativity. How does Cheri suggest that creativity can be encouraged in someone who is displaying this sort of impingement?
"A student's environment can be the key in encouraging creativity. Once a student experiences some sort of "success" in creative expression, it is one more loop in that belt of imagination. As a student becomes older, peers play a bigger role in development as does the relationship/experiences with school and teachers. This is where teachers can have a huge impact on those students adversely affected.

Some teachers have stated that creativity has been under-valued in the past, with a focus on academic performance over creative achievements. Others feel that this is shifting, but perhaps not fast enough. Cheri says that she is a firm believer in developing the skills of those who might feel that their talents are left of centre.

Cheri says, "I think as we learn that we cannot yet prepare for future careers - as many have yet to be developed, what we can do is look at the present successes of people in the technology industry, such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg."

Cheri believes that these innovators all had one thing in common. "The common denominator is that all these individuals (and even those not named) were creative thinkers who often thought outside the box."

Cheri believes that "there's this huge trend in equalizing opportunity for creativity by implementing 'Common Core' standards. I think the ticket is combining both academic strides AND creativity. As we see our international competitors and feel a squeeze that we are starting to 'fall behind', the realization is that we have not spent enough time in the classroom to allow students to do genuine 'problem solving' and to think on their feet as 'real-life problems' present themselves."

So, was this previously undervalued? Cheri says yes. "I do think this is where it was under-valued in the past as we were erroneously led to believe that our highest academic achievers would do the job, but that wasn't the case. Those that break out with their own businesses (whether it be the Candace Nelson, founder of Sprinkles Cupcakes or Oprah, who created an empire with HARPO) we see the value of creativity as a catalyst for success and great contribution to our society. Yes, cupcakes count!"

So what about the rise of
standardized tests? Cheri is not a particular fan of them, a stance she shares with many
contemporary teachers.

"Put the test to rest," says Cheri. "It is only one of many ways to assess students. I think it's fine for baseline testing for certain skills pertinent to succeed. It just doesn't measure many types of intellect, mainly someone's capacity in their heart to give and contribute in ways that help everyone. It can provide immense stress and actually kill creativity for many individuals so I think there's a delicate balance and depending on the district, college or school, some are way out of balance while others are insisting on balancing the scales of justice by maintaining funds or creating funds through foundations to include art, P.E., Science labs, and other hands-on programs that teach and facilitate 'Learn by Doing' skills."

Does this teacher consider herself to be a creative person? "Absolutely," says Cheri. What does she think the key to her creativity is? "Get to know your students. That's the bottom line," is Cheri's direct response.

"Know where they are, what makes them tick as individuals, and help them grow academically and as a person. I create many opportunities for my students to try their hand in real-life situations that will only help them gain confidence and put tools in their toolbox of life skills."

Cheri goes on to give a range of wonderful suggestions for classroom activities. She suggests putting on a TEDx event at a learning institution, for example. She explains, "At our place of learning, the TED customer portal helped with public relations. They provided us with spreadsheets, meeting and greeting speakers, and schooled us on everything it entails to put on an event."

Cheri goes on to list some other ideas for teachers and classes: "We do a 'Lingo Lounge' where the students get on the microphone at a local Starbucks and reads poetry, we read about and get involved in local and national news, learning about what goes on in the world and how we can help, etc. We do "problems of the month," with real-life math problems and together, they work in groups to create solutions and understand that there may be more than one answer."

Does creativity come in rhythms, in Cheri's opinion? What could a student (adult or child) do when they have to complete a creative task and they have no inspiration? What has Cheri found success with in the past?

Cheri says, "What I find most successful in the recipe for creativity is to first be sure that the Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs are met. It's imperative that basic needs are met first. Then, it's key to stay connected to the project."

She explains that there is always a natural ebb and flow. "Yes, there will be rhythms of enthusiasm and frustration, etcetera but as a class, students can learn that this is part of the process."
Cheri explains that considering what is still to happen is important when explaining the creative rhythms. "Working with others, working on those relationships, beginning with the end in mind and realizing that that may just be the beginning," says Cheri. "I always talk to the students about the word 'yet'.

I explain that they may not know something yet but will if they work hard on wanting to get there they eventually will.

Cheri has a couple of creative acronyms she uses in her classroom. "Also, sometimes it's about POP and BIC (pencil on paper) and (bottom in chair.) Sometimes it takes work ethic, hard work and determination, mixed with all the good ideas that bring good results."

What else can teachers do? Cheri says, "It's also important to understand that others (other people) and your environment can always provide inspiration when needed, if open minded to understanding that sometimes the more complex and satisfying projects require more than just yourself. The most successful way to complete a creative task is to start with a shorter task and experience the satisfaction of completing that task, experiencing success of beginning to end, then you can create longer tasks and increase endurance and stamina."

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