I am a firm believer that everyone should have a creative outlet. It may take some time to find what works for you, but it is so worth it in the end. I discovered writing as my creative outlet at an early age, but then life got in the way, as it always does. I hope this time I can make time for what matters.
As I have spent the last several weeks as a substitute teacher in a 4th grade classroom, I’ve enjoyed seeing just how passionate kids are about their hobbies. I have budding writers, musicians, artists, and athletes in the classroom, not to mention scientists. We had the best discussions about the US space shuttle program, astronauts, and basic animal genetics. They are not afraid to ask great questions. After a science lesson on the effects of long-term exposure to zero gravity on astronauts, one student asked me why we never returned to the moon after the 1969 moon landing. A quick Google search later, we had our answers, which included the facts that politics largely got in the way and that NASA recently announced possible commercialization of space travel, including a possible return to the moon. See article here.
I am left with just one question: What do we do as educators between 4th grade and senior year of high school to suck the creativity out of students? I like to believe things are changing for the better, but I still see way too much “busy,” mindless work being assigned, especially in middle school. STEM programs are on the right track, but I do believe they need to include art, or STEAM, as well. Still, that doesn’t cut it for everyone. What about students who have no idea how to stick with something long enough to enjoy it? How do we recognize and deal with the fact that many students are resistant to the idea that failure can help us learn and grow? We inadvertently teach students that failure is to be avoided at all cost. For better or worse, it is ingrained in our culture. High stakes standardized testing anyone? We need to teach students how to fail effectively: how to move on and learn from our mistakes. They need to know on a gut level that failure is inevitable. We are meant to learn from it.
I am deeply grateful that I found a creative outlet that works for me. I adored art classes as a child, but I have no ability to draw animals or people. I am no painter either. One of my greatest wishes is to have some musical ability. Sadly, as much as I love music, I have none. In searching for my creative outlet, I overlooked the obvious: I am meant to be a writer. Unfortunately, as a child, I always wanted to be more instead of embracing what I love and can reasonably do without embarrassing myself. In fact, that is one of my greatest wishes for any of my students past, present, or future: Find a creative outlet that makes you happy through good times and bad.