Creativity is a funny thing. We seem to value it very highly in our private lives but dismiss it too easily in our professional ones.
When I was fired from my last job in the IT realm, I was told that I was too creative for the position. When I interviewed with another company after that, I was told that I wasn’t a good fit because I was likely too creative. Somehow, the quality that made me a mismatched candidate was that I was able to see problems differently when looking for solutions. Or, perhaps it was that I was able to see different solutions to the same problems. I’m not sure that it matters which.
When talking to my students, I often hear that subjects like music, art, drama, and dance, are not as important as math, English, or science. I then ask how often my students watch movies, listen to music, or play computer games versus how often they do mental math, think about the interaction between sodium chloride and dihydrogen monoxide, or read and write essays. The point I’m trying to make is that the arts, the creative pursuits, are what make our lives interesting and, in many ways, worthwhile. Indeed, the hard sciences and social sciences are their own type of creative pursuit, artistic even.
One of my favourite things about being a teacher is that I can employ some of my creativity. The struggle that I often have is how to prove its value. Creativity is unsteady and unsure. We’ve compartmentalized the subjects, teaching them separately and without reference to their position within the framework of learning. There is a push for cross-curricular learning, but even this suggests that there are separate subjects that should be brought together. You can’t do science without math, or drama without English.
Technology has given us the ability to be more creative more of the time. iPhone ads try to sell phones with art. Most people aren’t interested in the technology behind the glass, focussing on the picture within the frame it provides. Entire movies can be shot on a phone, billboard ads designed, podcasts produced, and songs composed. We have the ability to do more now than we ever have.
This is a two-edged sword, of course. Where do we focus our creative energies when we can put them anywhere? I find myself constantly bouncing between different pursuits, often unsure of which to do next. I just want to try it all, do it all, and make something with it all. It’s impossible to get really good at something when the world has many paths, each requiring a different pair of shoes.
The summer is always interesting because I have the time and opportunity to do almost anything I want to. I just have to get to doing it. In previous summers, I would do a lot of writing. Last summer, I was turning pens. This summer is turning into a bit of a hodgepodge of turning and making. It would be wonderful if this is how we were encouraged to live our lives, to pursue those things that matter most to us, that we choose to do, that are practical in their impracticality.