We admire creativity, but we rarely allow it in school. This week I took a leap of faith. I presented a project idea to my students, but instead of the usual controlled options, I only gave three guidelines.
- You have to create a mash-up of two or more books we read this year.
- It will be presented to the class in 3 - 5 minutes.
- Everyone needs to have an equal share in the work.
Hands shot up in the air. How many can be in a group? What should the project look like? Can we have music? Can the whole class be a group? What books do we have to do? My answer, "Whatever you want - be creative." They sat silent for a second and then broke into excited conversations.
I wandered around the room awestruck. Everyone was so different. 5th period decided to work together. They pushed the tables out of the way to create a big empty space in the center of the room. Then they began cutting giant butcher paper squares and fashioning them into a giant game board. Their plan is to create a Jumangi type game. They will roll giant dice and act out the stories through the cards they land on.
In another period, three boys are busy writing new words for "Boys in the Hood" to fit the right rhythm with the new words from "The Outsiders" and "The Dangerous Days of Daniel X." When the words are complete, the boys plan to add their own beatbox music to perform for us.
I learned a lot the past few days. My usual tendencies would be to provide a few well-structured projects for the students to work from. Luckily, I have been doing too many things on too little sleep and my creativity stalled. Up against a time frame, I was forced to take a leap of faith and see what would happen. What a wonderful piece of synchronicity. Without my own loss of creativity and a unmovable deadline, I would have missed out on the true lesson of creativity. When I got out of the way and stopped trying to control everything, my students truly began to learn.
My students are amazing teachers.