Ever have one of those days where you feel completely uninspired? A day where no matter what happened, you were pretty sure your creative juices would never start flowing and your critical thinking and problem solving skills would not be making an appearance? A few days ago, when I started writing this blog (or tried to), I found myself crippled with writer’s block and couldn’t even think of a topic to start with. After a day of pondering topic options and what this writer’s block was going to mean for my week, I realized that teachers and students alike have found themselves in my situation.
I was never a strong creative writer. In Language Arts class, if we were given an assignment that required on-the-spot creativity, I often experience anxiety. It was such a nuisance to me to have to write a story or a poem when I did not have any stories or poems already brewing in my mind. What was worse was when we were asked to share our ideas especially when I knew mine was not my best work. I’m inclined to think that creative writing and English teachers understand this. Even the best of students isn’t always going to have a billion ideas for a story floating in his or her head waiting to be put down on paper. If you are a Language Arts teach and you are always expecting great creative ideas from your students every time, change your expectations. If you are a Language Arts teacher who gets this, be a leader and share your methods for evaluating and encouraging writers block students with your colleagues.
Writer’s block is not just something that story book writers suffer from. Creativity can come to a standstill in music composition, visual arts, and scientific research. Any time we lose the ability to think outside the box, innovation suffers. A couple weeks ago, when I was writing my blog about Discovery in the Classroom, a Trinity colleague pointed out a new educational movement going beyond S.T.E.M. education. It’s called S.T.E.A.M.: science, technology, engineering, ART, and mathematics. When she sent me this web link, she also suggested that I write a follow up to my blog discussing S.T.E.A.M. At the time, I couldn’t think of a way to do it and at the time when I started writing this blog, I didn’t even remember that email. That’s the thing about creativity. Sometimes it just comes out of left field at 8 a.m. on a Monday.
The S.T.E.A.M. education philosophy embraces the need for arts education in order to be successful in science, technology, engineering, and math. In art classes we encourage students to put on paper the landscape they see in their mind, to paint the abstract, and to break the rules. Students are told to embrace their crazy ideas when they are wielding a paint brush but not when they are solving a physics problem. Didn’t the best scientists, especially inventors, embrace their crazy ideas and give it a try? Leonardo Da Vinci was probably told he’d never fly. He didn’t get to see his flying machine work during his life time, but the Wright brothers combined Da Vinci’s creativity with what they knew scientifically and made a plane that did fly. The rest is history!
It is in our benefit to encourage students to be innovative in everything they do. Innovation is what makes the world a better place. Cures for diseases, the ability to call halfway around the world from our cell phones, the discovery of America were all possible because someone had the creative idea to do these things and had the scientific knowledge to test out their theory.
I recently read a book called The Pope and the CEO by Andreas Widmer. I was drawn to this book because of Widmer’s personal knowledge of Pope John Paul II due to his time as a Swiss Guard employed at the Vatican. However, I was addicted to the book due to Widmer’s beautiful philosophy on the potential of each human person. Widmer is the co-founder of an organization called The SEVEN Fund. The goals of The SEVEN Fund can be summarized as employing entrepreneur based solutions to poverty. Their idea is that educating people in Third World countries is not enough. They believe that educating the people plus encouraging them to explore creative opportunities will put them on the path to entrepreneurship which is thought to be the best route out of poverty. Essentially, The SEVEN Fund is not just teaching a man to fish but teaching him to fish and encouraging him to find a better way to do it.
Isn’t that what we want for the next generation? We want them to understand the cancer research that’s already been done and then say, “Well, what if we tried this?” That new idea could be the key to the cure. If we are solely teaching our children what we already know and not encouraging creativity in science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics we will never grow as a society. In a way, writer’s block is a good thing. It means that I once had the creative juices flowing before they stopped. It might sound silly but I would love to see a school where every student experiences writer’s block. Why? Because I know that with the right encouragement from their teachers, these students will come out of the block with some of the craziest ideas which might end up being not so crazy after all.