Tuesday, September 14, 2010

When creativity isn't wanted

I've been a little sick lately, and in a fever haze at 4:00am, I decided I liked the term 'creativist'.  I still do, but I'm sad to note I am not original in coining the term. Creativist.

Part of my talk this weekend will be about times when teachers don't want creativity.  Here are some of my - again, fever-induced- thoughts on the subject.

Strong ESL speakers need to be creative and produce original phrases and sentences.  That's obvious and clear.

Beginners don't.

To go further, we don't want them to.

Imagine the following situation

Teacher: How are you?

Student 1 (going through a quick mental checklist):  I'm tired.

Teacher:  Good.  Well, good English; I'm sorry that you feel tired.

Student 2 (the creative one): Booong,  fart, fart! (Bong is the sound Koreans feel farts make.)

Brian as teacher: I'm angry.  Sit down.

Brian as Creativist: Wow. You have suggested to me that you have intestinal discomfort and perhaps need a bathroom break and done that with limited English skills.  That's excellent communication.

As teachers, we need to be creative and offer the content in novel ways.  However, even this is not always true.  An arithmetic teacher needs students to repeat the multiplication tables over and over again until they are memorized and quickly retrievable.   Sometimes, endless pages of the same content is needed.

Elsewhere on this blog, and apropo to the conversation above, I discussed the finding that frequently when teachers are asked to identify problem students, these same students tend to be the most creative.

Daniel Pink in his book, Drive, discusses how to motivate people to do routine, non-creative work.  Prizes and awards.  We do this well, already.  The main thrust of his book is how to motivate people to do creative work, but that isn't relevant to this post.

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