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Monday, 19 November 2012

A Creative Narrative

A realisation

It had been a long time since I had felt so inspired and uplifted. A moment that made me truly reflect on my professional pedagogy and teaching practices. It occurred when I was watching Ken Robinson’s presentation on TEDtalk. His topic was “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” The presentation talked about how schools did not harness creativity in children and that school systems had become out-dated.

The statement that stuck with me was when Sir. Ken Robinson (just Ken seems improper) stated that, “I believe our only hope for the future is to adopt a new conception of human ecology, one in which we start to reconstitute our conception of the richness of human capacity". This view had an immediate impact on me. For the first time I have started to deeply question the core structure and purpose of education. I have taught for eight years and earned my Bachelor of Education at a highly regarded university but I never questioned "the system". I went through the system as a student and slipped into the same system as a teacher. I realised that I had never questioned why education was like it was. Suddenly, certain elements of education seemed ludicrous and irrelevant. In that moment the lens which I used to viewed education changed. I was questioning the core of how, what, where, when and who I was teaching?

My understanding of education was stripped bare. Schools had operated in the same way for many years and I was finally asking why? Suddenly I felt overwhelmingly ignorant. How well did I know my students? Lambert (in his article: 21st Century Learners - and their approachs to learning) suggests that students live in a world of rapid communication, action, mobility and change, of intricate social activity and a huge potential for new knowledge.

Some Questions...

How do schools cater for these students in school? How does the curriculum that is taught reflect the needs of these students now and in the future? Do administrators and schools ‘stand back’ and reflect on this world students live in and how we're setting them up for the ever-changing world of the future?


This is a world that is hastily changing, connected, adapting and evolving. Therefore, the style and approach to teaching has to change and overall the learning priorities to change to suit the 21st century. With this in mind I think back to Robinson’s quote. The student is evermore being looked at as an individual with a unique learning identity. Students have different abilities, knowledge, understandings, interests, learning preferences among others.

But with all this in mind I believe that all students have a ‘capacity’ that is limited only by what their experiences allow. That might be in the form of the environment that they learn in, either inside of school or outside of school; the people and teachers they interact with; or importantly their self-perception. Bearing in mind that people are unique in so many ways, I would argue that ‘human capacity’ lies in someone’s opinion of themselves. If you believe in yourself then no matter what your abilities, what your skills are, what your knowledge is – you can achieve a lot more.

This is the point where I realise why creativity is so important.

A story from Ancient India

When they are very small, elephants are tethered to large wooden stakes driven into the ground. These stakes are ample to hold a small elephant, despite its attempts to tug and rip the stake from the ground. As the elephants tire of the struggle to break free they learn the limits of their stake and cease to try to resist. These elephants grow into enormous beasts, many times the size and weight they were when they were first tethered. They could break the stake like a matchstick…but they never do, for they have learned their perceived limits.
(From Best & Thomas, 2008, The Creative Teaching and Learning Resource Book)

I come to a conclusion

I perceive that creativity has as much to do with attitude as any specific activity. Simply, if a student thinks of themselves as a creative thinker than the end product will be more creative. This will impact on the person that they develop into and the life opportunities that will appear in the uncertain future.

With all this in mind....I’m going on a journey. A journey to discover creativity.
What it is? Where it comes from? How to harness it? How to empower students with the knowledge that they are creative beings?

So my first step is: Go to the source – My students.

I asked several students from Prep to Year 3 some questions about their beliefs about creativity.

After asking these question with the students more questions began to flow. They were articulating a challenging concept in such amazing and dynamic ways.
Enough from me - here is one such example.

You know now why I'm on this journey.


  1. Dan, I'm so glad you have finally found an outlet for all that thinking buzzing around in your head! Already enjoying being on your journey with you. Loved this conclusion of yours: 'Simply, if a student thinks of themselves as a creative thinker than the end product will be more creative'. There is a huge message there for all teachers.
    Wow, what an incredible kid. She said some very insightful things. I love her explanation of we are 'not born anything' but rather have to 'work at things' and 'get to know ourselves'. Maybe she can run a PD session for teachers! She's even touched on the value of collaboration in provoking creativity, which we were discussing the other day!

  2. One of the proudest moments as a parent, is being able to write that the amazing girl on the video is my daughter. Is her insight a result of the genes my husband and I have passed on? Is it a result of the incredible teachers she has at school? Is it the result of the sum of her life experience which is constantly changing and growing? All I know, is that I don't have the answers, but what struck a chord is the comment by Mr Dunlevie - "if you believe in yourself then no matter what your abilities, what your skills are, what you knowledge is – you can achieve a lot more." I have always tried to encourage my kids to believe in themselves. And at the same time, I think adults have so much to learn from our kids whose creativity is not limited yet by what 's 'right' or 'wrong' or 'the expected way of doing things'. The innocence is precious and breeds amazing results when the kids have freedom to grow under the gentle guidance of sensational teachers. Thank you Daniel for interviewing my daughter and giving me a window in to what buzzes around her gorgeous head. Best of luck with your journey.

  3. Wow what an inspiring blog Dan! As an educator and parent of a young child about to enter Prep I too have struggled with the question, "what is the purpose of school and how do the creative gifts our very young children bring to learning continue to be fostered once at school"? I think this is a great question for us all to struggle with as we think about the needs of young learners in the 21st century and really all of us as life long learners. I can just imagine how proud the above parents must be. It was amazing to hear her articulate her thinking, ideas, etc with such confidence and clarity. SO inspiring to hear her talk about how she builds on others ideas but with a quirky twist! I loved her Mona Lisa comments. So sad to read the elephant story and know that there is still so much truth in this in our current schooling system. Good luck with your journey!