The Power of Creativity

Using creativity to meet our human need for freedom in the classroom

William Glasser in his “control theory” detailed five human needs. These are similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy but with an interesting twist.

1. Survival: Also known as safety explains basic needs: food, water, shelter, etc.

2. Love & Belonging: As a tribal species it is very important to be accepted by our peers.

3. Power & Recognition: Focuses on our ability to achieve our goals

4. Freedom: The ability to do what we want, to have choice, to seek fair play.

5. Fun: When all else is satisfied, we just ‘want to have fun’

While attending an Arts conference in Nashville, I was deeply intrigued when studying creative processes. Douglas Beam, music teacher in New Delhi, India made the profound connection that, “Creativity meets our human need for freedom.” The classroom can be a difficult place for this need, freedom. I don’t know about your class, but if I give a millimeter they take a 5k!

Choice is one excellent way to meet the need for freedom in the classroom, especially in classroom management. The adult voice, referred to by Ruby Payne as the best way to communicate with children in poverty, will always offer a choice. The child gains freedom and control of a situation when given the power to chose their outcome. For example, Tommy is given the choice to stop or change a negative behavior or continue the behavior and receive a consequence. I would tell Tommy how I feel about the situation by sharing my encouragement that he is a wonderful decision maker and leader and then by sharing my confidence that I believe/trust in him to make the best choice. It is up to him. The adult voice is also described as non-judgmental, free of negative non-verbal language, often is communicated in question form, and uses an attitude of win-win.

However, outside of classroom management: creating and/or freedom are not generally a common trends in the classroom.

How can we use creativity in our classroom to meet our students’ human need for freedom?

  1. The most curricular way would be writing. Writing gives the child the power to create story. Writing is a very difficult subject to assess and give feedback because it is 100% personal. Your student created each and every piece of their writing regardless of the quality- so being intentional to critique process over product; spelling, grammar, order — is crucial.
  2. Another way would be through incorporating the arts. Use music and art in its various forms in the classroom! Connect it to standards. Allow students to create poems after close reading an article and then have them turn their poetry into a rap. This addresses reading, vocabulary, writing, poetry, form, and sequence in addition to creativity!
  3. Also using artwork to inspire discussion gives students a unique opportunity to use their vocabulary from English Language Arts and to practice critical thinking, description, and prep for their own creative process. And, if your school doesn’t have art — this is a fabulous method to introduce historical time periods, different cultures, additional vocabulary, and artists.

Lastly, as mentioned in the writing practice, creativity is personal. Establishing a safe environment fosters creativity. Remember, safety and love & belonging are human needs also. In giving students’ a picture of what great work looks like, make sure to choose a variety of styles on the appropriate level. There is no right or wrong answer in creativity. Choosing only one example tells a student that, “This is the right way.” Purposely do not use the words good or bad because in the beginning, chances are likely that students’ will produce poor work. Given appropriate structure and boundaries, the more a child creates the better quality of work they will produce. Therefore, killing the safety by giving a picture of ‘right or wrong’ or critical feedback on the beginning products will likely determine the level of growth and achievement in your students’ work.

Happy creating!

Written by

Believer, wife to @ross_hagan, boy-mom, school leader, co-founder of the Student Leadership Academy of Chattanooga

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