Tim Needles | July 2015

The Creative Summer for Educators

After 17 years of teaching public school I have become a master of making the most of my summer break.

Each year, I take a short trip just after school ends to decompress and clean the mental slate. This way, I don’t carry any unnecessary baggage into my summer.  The trip serves as a marker, allowing me to conclusively end one period and begin another.  The trip doesn’t need to be extravagant. It just needs to be totally devoid of work – a true vacation.  When I return, I take on the task of living the life of an artist, rather than a teacher.

The educator’s mindset is always working in the background during those summer months. It notes what might be useful in the classroom in the future, but every year I focus solely on being creative.  This year, at the urging of some of my fantastic social media colleagues Arlene Shelton and Laura Grundler, I decided to share this creative experience with the world. I will do so through daily creative prompts online throughout the month of July.  Also, the daily dose of collaborative-creativity serves as a preface to a new project that I’ve worked on focusing on the arts entitled The Everyday Renaissance.  The project commences this month with a podcast that will share stories, interviews, and creative prompts with listeners in an effort to promote creativity, authentic engagement, and spiritual rebirth.

The podcast and the project itself is a result of the creative experience I had last summer which is evidence of how powerful giving yourself the gift of time for creativity can be.

I’ve always had an interest in radio and podcasting, so last summer I gave myself some time to experiment. It gave birth to a larger idea that’s now becoming a reality.  I’m a believer that creativity comes in endless shapes and sizes, and that it’s not the medium, it’s the mindset.  It’s essential for creative educators to spend time creating without other distractions, because it facilitates innovation as well as rejuvenates your spirit.  Let’s be honest, at the end of the school year even the most dedicated educator could use some rejuvenation. Denying yourself some relaxation leads to burnout and detachment or even worse, complacency.

Allowing yourself some time for creativity everyday is a great idea

One, I’m sure good educators could rally behind, so why is it that it’s not prevalent?  I believe the answer is life. Whether it’s family time, or other obligations this philosophy that sounds wonderful may seem a bit harder to actually put into practice. Ultimately, it’s just a matter of priorities.  It’s not necessary to devote all your time to creativity, but it’s important to set aside some time. Even if it’s only a few minutes a day, because the overall effect is so powerful.  The designer James Victore stated that “your work is a gift”, and it’s a gift you should give yourself. But, it’s also a gift you should share with others.

I’d like to share an open invitation to all to join my creative time this month at www.theeverydayrenaissance.com and even if you’re not able to participate daily give some of the creative prompts a try and share your work on social media with the hashtag #TERPart and #K12artchallenge.  There’s a terrific group of international artists, creative educators, students, and amateurs who are supportive and inspiring that have been sharing their work and it’s been a great experience.

About the Author

Tim Needles is art and media teacher at Smithtown High School East in New York. He has been the recipient of the Robert Rauschenberg Power of Art Award, was recognized by the National Foundation for the Advancement in the Arts, and has worked as an Adobe Master Teacher and Education Leader. Tim is also a artist, writer, and performer who continues to exhibit and perform regularly. His work has been featured on NPR as well as in the New York Times and at the Columbus Museum of Art.