As summer starts for many of us, I would like to share what I believe to be an incredible summer challenge from #LaunchBook co-author, John Spencer (@spencerideas). Quite simply, MAKE SOMETHING. With his permission, I have included his powerful post below.
You were born creative. You learned to dance with reckless abandon. You made up songs without ever thinking about pitch. You drew wild pictures in bold colors in sidewalk chalk and crayons and sometimes you even used the living room walls as a canvas. You invented worlds that didn’t exist, friends that adults couldn’t see, and stories that went nowhere. You built cities out of Legos and robots out of cardboard. You set up experiment without asking yourself if you’re a science person or an art person.
Early on, the world celebrated with your creativity. Chances are your parents plastered each masterpiece to the fridge. They cheered at your songs. They loved your Lego cities – that is, until they stepped on the bricks in utter agony at two in the morning.
But somewhere along the line, you lost something. You learned to be embarrassed of your dance moves and ashamed of your voice. You grew scared of speaking in public. You set down the chalk and the crayons and the pencils and relegated this to those with “real talent.” You bought into the lie that real scientists don’t do art and real artists don’t do science.
A little nuance here: it’s okay to grow out of things. It’s okay to reach a place where you’re just not that into mathematical theory or classical literature or crocheting unicorns. But this is about losing something deeper. Lost. Maybe that’s the distinction. It’s one thing to toss away something that doesn’t interest you anymore. But too often you lost some creative part of you because it was taken away and the culprit was shame.
So, what happened?
If your experience is anything like mine, there’s a good chance you ran into shame. Maybe it was an offhanded comment of a teacher or the overprotective advice of a parent trying desperately to shield you from failure. Maybe it was another student who mocked your work. Or maybe it happened when you compared your work to others and never pulled out of that despair you feel when you see the chasm between your work and the work of others.
Brené Brown writes in The Gifts of Imperfection (this is one of my all-time favorite books):
“We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”
I wonder if shame does the same thing to creativity, as well. It seems that shame makes you hide. It makes you quit. It makes you hedge your bets so that nothing goes wrong. Shame kills your dreams and dulls your imagination. It turns you cynical, making you the perennial critic that has lost the creative spark.
So, if you’re entering into the summer break, I have a challenge.
Go make something.
Here’s the caveat: it can’t be something for your classroom. It can’t be a unit plan or a project resource.
Find something creative that pushes you to the point of frustration.
Learn a new craft. Learn to draw. Learn to dance. Learn to code. Learn to crochet. Learn to speak in front of a group. Learn how to build a deck or install shiplap (don’t ask me how I know that term). Visit a makerspace and make something ridiculous and weird.
Call it your own extended summer-long Genius Hour. Call it your defiant, “screw you” to shame.
As you learn and explore and make, consider showing your work.
You can show your work by posting videos and pictures of your journey on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with the hashtag #teachermakers.
I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, it’s easy to spend a summer learning. I’ll read books and plan out units. I’ll attend conferences, feeling inspiring keynotes and attending sessions where I jot down ne
w ideas. But there’s something humbling about entering the creative struggle for a summer. It helps me gain empathy for my students who will be using design thinking in our class. It pushes me to take creative risks. It’s uncomfortable. Unnerving. But it’s also what makes me feel the most alive.
If you’re curious about a structure for your creative Genius Hour, consider checking out Launch: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student. You can go through the LAUNCH Cycle on your own as you explore the ideas in the book and maybe even do a collaborative creative project with a friend or colleague.
Okay…back to me (Dave):
Wow! Special thanks to John for allowing me to bring that challenge to my readers!
We are so proud to have published his incredible book that he wrote with A.J. Juliani ( @ajjuliani ) called, Launch: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student.
The maker movement, project-based learning, and genius hour have been hot topics in education for several years now and the idea that we need to add more opportunities for students to be creative and innovative in school is hardly controversial these days.
The problem is that simply adding “choice” and unstructured time to “make” has been a recipe for disaster, chaos, and ineffectiveness for many. Others feel hampered by a lack of resources, a lack of time, or may feel they have been inadequately prepared to teach the creative process to students. And…how does this all mesh with the standards, a packed curriculum map, and the need to be ready for all of these assessments? Oh! Can I do this even in my subject and at my grade level?
The design thinking process, as described in Launch, is the answer to your dreams! A.J. and John have demystified the creative process and made it not only accessible, but also highly implementable in all subjects and at all grade levels. The book is brimming with powerful examples drawn from a wide array of classes and has actionable steps, hints, and sample lessons ensuring this is something you will actually DO…not just read about.
We are unbelievably excited to bring this book to the educational world and the early feedback has been OFF THE CHARTS amazing. You will devour this book and leave inspired and fired up to try the ideas.
Great news! A.J. and John will be hosting #tlap chat and discussing Launch on Twitter tonight (Monday 6/27) at 8pm CST. We would love to have you join us!
In addition, Teresa Gross will be hosting a book study using the #LaunchBook hashtag on Sunday nights at 5pm CST starting July 10th and continuing for 4 weeks until July 31st.
As always, thanks for the support!!