Teaching is a Creative Act

Matthew Oldridge

My colleague @MrsBoutros wondered aloud if teacher’s colleges should check candidates for creativity. Imagine that-not just grades, or basic academic skills, but also creativity.

Perhaps we need to consider teachers as part of the creative class. What would happen if all teachers thought of themselves as creatives? How would our very approach to lesson planning, and the day by day process of constructing activities in a deliberate lesson or unit sequence change?

Maybe it wouldn’t. Maybe you already see the world as your lesson plan book, and are adept at spinning its raw materials in classroom materials. Maybe you are just taking the first tentative steps toward seeing lesson planning as a generative process.

One small step could be freeing yourself from a script: taking an existing lesson plan you know is good, and giving yourself permission to deviate a bit. Maybe you open up a math textbook, and tweak a question so it’s more to your liking. By my definition, that’s creativity. We could also call it good, sound, professional judgement.

When I started out teaching, I thought I was “supposed” to come up with brand new lessons every day. That’s what I thought the job was, but then, if I was stuck for ideas, I would feel bad. The reality is, there are a lot of ideas out there, to tap into. The difference between a rookie teacher and a veteran is probably that the veteran realizes you don’t have to hit a home run every single day. It’s that careful process of iteration- subtle tweaks, integration of new ideas, even slowly, cautiously, into our teaching processes that makes teaching a creative act.

Try this idea, from @AustinKleon:

Teaching as mash up: mash a few ideas together, and make a new one. Don’t like that lesson/project/idea? Take five of them, and make something even better. Inspiration has to come from somewhere. Life isn’t a process of constant mindblowing inspiration- if you’re stuck for teaching ideas, find them elsewhere.

Think of it this way: each time you step in front of your class, you have the chance to “make it new”. I couldn’t deliver a lesson the same way as you if I tried. We teach who we are. New kids, new day, new chance to see teaching as a creative act.

Matthew Oldridge

Written by

Writing about creativity, books, productivity, education, particularly mathematics, music, and whatever else “catches my mind”. ~Thinking about things~

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