The Creativity Conundrum

scared to make mistakes cover
When Did Students Become So Scared to Make Mistakes?

Directions: Please read the following article. At the end of the article you will be asked to give your opinion regarding creativity in schools. You will be expected to provide a response that shows thinking outside the box and is worthy of a Nobel Prize. No pressure. Think Creatively.

I have been an educator for about 20 years now. I started teaching full time when I was just 8 years old. (Just kidding!) I started teaching in 1994 in Lauderhill, Florida. Back then, FCAT was not on the table and my instruction of intermediate grades was more creative than the sterile “test prep” of today.

I enjoyed creative instruction so very much that I certified in Gifted Education so I could infuse my classroom with the cutting edge ideas and teach my students how to think divergently. I felt students did not have to be “gifted” to be gifted! All children have gifts and talents. I taught them to embrace their strengths as well as their weaknesses.

In subsequent years, I found myself teaching gifted education in an elementary school in Orlando. It was a mainstream class where I taught both sets of standards: 5th grade and gifted education in one class. It was always challenging and highly creative each and every day. My students had to take the FCAT during these years and I began to feel their stress as the standardized test implications became greater and greater.

I was a big proponent of finding a solution through making countless mistakes. Today, we would call it teaching students about “grit.” I would conduct a two-week unit on historical figures who would make countless mistakes that eventually lead them to their desired solution. It was the tone I needed to set at the start of each school year to teach students to celebrate mistakes and that failure is a part of life. This was a primer to how my students would learn to think creatively across the content areas.

I absolutely loved when my students would be doing an
experiment that would not have the desired outcome.

Other groups would congratulate them on their “failure” and look forward to the class debriefing on what they thought went wrong. I felt they learned more from failures than successes. To this day, I get Facebook posts from students celebrating successes and failures. What more could a teacher ask for?

Today, a student in my FLVS Parenting Skills class called me and was desperate for me to help her. She was in a complete dither over an opinion-based question in her lab assignment. “Mrs. Zanegood, I don’t know how to answer this question. I am afraid I am going to get it wrong.” This student attends a performing arts school so this confounded me. Where was her creative spirit? Why was she afraid to give her opinion?

After discussing the video she watched about creativity (which is ironic), I asked her some open-ended questions and encouraged her to give an opinion. She would respond, “But is that the correct answer?”

This is happening more and more often when I speak to my students who attend traditional schools across the state of Florida.

Where is their creativity? Why do they fear failure so much? What happened to their ability to form their own opinion? Ken Robinson is featured in our Parenting Skills class when the student reaches the topic of education. His brilliant Ted Talk, How Schools Kills Creativity (February 2006), makes a moving case as to how the U.S. education system undermines creativity in the classroom.

Blog Reader Assignment:

After watching the Ted Talk, please feel free to post a comment below. Your comments will not be graded and there are NO wrong answers. Think CREATIVELY!


Dr. Jeanne GiardinoDr. Jeanne Giardino, FLVS Parenting Skills instructor, has a true passion for all things literacy. She enjoys the collaborative process in promoting reading in all aspects of virtual education. Having held a variety of positions with FLVS since 2006, she brings a global perspective to her current position. After 20 years in the field of education, she maintains a wealth of literacy knowledge and enthusiasm for student success.



One comment on “The Creativity Conundrum

  1. mario

    I believe that schools kill creativity for a few reasons. for one, they make kids focus on getting the “right answer” to pass. by teaching kids to get the right answer and not think creatively, in the future some jobs require creativity. if students think creatively, most of the time teachers now a days will actually give correctness as long as it is a good idea. another reason it kills creativity falls under the upper topic, some kids get punished for not getting good grades. now I know all kids should get good grades, but putting all the pressure on one kid to get a’s every year can be challenging and stressful. so this kills creativity in two ways, they try to get the “right” answer and the stress gives them no time to be creative. while the teachers that want nothing to do with creativity don’t realize is that these kids will need creativity in their futures. for the jobs they get that pay a lot (engineer, architect, game designer, etc…) they will have to think so far out of the box they will be building a new box.

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