Creativity at Madison Country Day School abounds. There is a significant commitment to provide a thriving music, art, and theater program for our students—this is intentional as our mission stipulates that we provide a high degree of “personal enrichment” to our students. This commitment allows our students to express themselves in creative ways, thus enriching their experience of identity formation and gaining an appreciation for how others express their individuality.
But creativity is far more than self-expression. It most certainly is a vehicle to build student engagement. Consider how Sir Ken Robinson, author of “Out of Our Minds: The Power of Being Creative” and originator of one of the highly popular YouTube videos (“Do Schools Kill Creativity?” and “Changing Education Paradigms”, explains creativity within the context of education: “I remember when I was running the national commission on creativity, education and the economy in the U.K., the Secretary of State there said, ‘We’re very committed to creativity in education but we’ve got to get literacy and numeracy right first.’ And I said, this is just a basic misunderstanding. It’s like saying we’re going to bake a cake and if it works out, then we’ll put the eggs in. That’s not how it works. If you want people to be literate, you have to get them passionate about reading and that’s a creative job. To think of it as an afterthought or in conflict of the core purposes, is a misconception of what creativity is.”
Here at MCDS, classrooms are supportive and encouraging to allow student creativity to emerge and flourish. Risk-taking, one of our IB Learner Profile traits, is a prerequisite to allow creativity to be unleashed. Our recent student-written, -directed – and -led production of “Nothing More Deceptive” is a case in point—12th grade senior Patrick intentionally broke every rule of plot-development in the mystery genre, and as a result produced a highly entertaining play that was not just original in that it was a new play but more importantly in the sense that it broke new ground in thinking about the genres of both comedy and mystery.
Robert Sternberg, a noted education and cognitive theorist and creator of the Triarchic Model of Intelligence (comprised of analytical intelligence, creative or synthetic intelligence, and practical intelligence), believes that being creative is a decision we make (or not). He proposes a list of ten mindsets by which we decide for creativity—a list that MCDS teachers can often be observed putting to use:
- Redefine problems: This approach may prevent us from getting stuck.
- Analyze one’s own ideas: I would refer to this mode of thinking as fine-tuning and re-tuning one’s own thoughts.
- Sell one’s own ideas: Demonstrating the value of one’s thinking is bound to result in greater creativity.
- Knowledge is a double-edged sword: So-called expertise may limit flexibility.
- Surmount obstacles: I would define this as one’s willingness to entertain contrary points of view in an effort of redefining one’s own ideas.
- Take sensible risks: Creativity or divergent thinking mandates one move beyond one’s comfort zone.
- Willingness to grow: One’s viewpoint of being correct can hinder the examination of different solutions.
- Believe in oneself: I would think that anyone who believes they can be creatively productive will indeed be creatively productive.
- Tolerate ambiguity: Embrace the uncertainties of the creative process—accept that the end point can be redefined during the process.
- Find what you love to do and do it: Follow your passions and interests.