The Freedom to Find One’s Genius

Why Creativity in the Classroom is Vital to Learning

I know being a teacher sometimes feels like a hopeless endeavor. With constant changes and unending expectations placed upon us, it takes perseverance and dedication to stay in this very sacred profession.

But I believe even with all our challenges, educators still have the power to work creatively, to provide all students with the personalized, compassionate, and oriented education they deserve.  

In his riveting TED Talk, “Do Schools Kill Creativity,” creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson contends that every single one of us is born with immense talents. However, he finds that by the time students have been through the education system, far too many have lost touch with those talents. “Many highly talented, brilliant people think they’re not because the thing they were good at in school wasn’t valued or was actually stigmatized,” says Robinson.

I see this attitude in students all of the time. I see it in a wiry 5th grade student, who likes to be called “Kit Kat” instead of Kristen. She’s wound tight, super-creative, can sing, dance, play the electric guitar, and loves crafts. She told me one day that she feels alive in her 5th grade class, especially during Genius Hour when she gets the opportunity to create something that is of interest to her, rather than something she’s forced into.

“I feel like we are told everything we have to do at school, and this year, the teacher lets us pick things we want to learn about during Genius Hour,” Kit Kat explained. “I get so excited because there are so many things I’m interested in, but they aren’t necessarily taught in school.”

Kit Kat is a super-creative genius in her own right, but kids like her can sometimes get lost in a system that drives them to demonstrate only left-brain capabilities while stuck behind a desk all day. Instead, thanks to the freedom of Genius Hour, she’s thriving. She’s happy at school, and she’s even created her own beauty skin care line called “Guide to KK’s Cosmetics.”  

All students have their own “geniuses” just like we adults do. My own zone of genius does not happen to include bookkeeping … or running the marketing side of my business … or editing blog posts. So, I hire those tasks out. But I know I’m not insufficient because I lack these skills. What is my zone of genius? Giving kick-ass presentations to educators, being in front of huge crowds, and inspiring teachers to go back to their classrooms and kick some educational butt. (I’m totally laughing at myself as I write this…but it’s all true!)

We all deserve the chance to find and demonstrate our zone of genius. Are your students being given classroom opportunities to shine in their own zone? If not, do you have the courage to make creativity part of your curriculum? I promise if you do, you will not be disappointed in what your students can learn and achieve!

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