Jacie Maslyk | October 2019
Creative Mindsets Wanted
The tables for the workshop were prepped with a variety of materials: Play-Doh, crayons, markers and colored pencils. Sketchnote templates were placed on the tables, as well. I wanted to make sure that participants had multiple opportunities to think and work creatively during the session in order to get those creative mindsets going! So, I created invitations for participants to jump in and mess with the materials.
When the participants came in, I heard exclamations of, “Oh, I love coloring!” and “Do we really get to play with Play-Doh?” Simply by sharing some creative materials, these excited educators were ready to engage in some hands-on learning. It is this type of unconventional approach to professional development that often draws in learners and allows them to get their creative juices flowing. Fostering creative mindsets in our teachers is a step in the right direction. Why? Because we want them to create similar opportunities within their classrooms. Unfortunately though, schools don’t always afford teachers these types of experiences.
Flexible Thinking For All
Hopefully, your school district embraces a mindset that welcomes new ideas and a sense of ongoing learning and personal growth. As educators and school leaders, we need to foster a growth mindset within our students but also with our new teachers. Take a look at some ways that a growth mindset can be cultivated in the classroom.
A growth mindset is one of flexibility and also a desire for ongoing learning that supports the 4 Cs. (Refresher! The 4 Cs are: Communication, Collaboration, Critical thinking, and Creativity.) These skills, also known as skills for the 21st century are important for our current teachers to know and understand so that they can share those with students. In addition, it is important for future teachers to embrace the importance of a growth mindset so they are able to prepare learners for the future.
Professional Learning for Teachers
The workshop I was preparing for was my first opportunity to connect with future teachers and a number of institutions of higher education at the ECET2 Next Gen Convening. ECET2 stands for Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers and it is an organization that coordinates professional learning opportunities across the nation to lift up educators. The Next Gen convening was the first of its kind, focusing on pre-services educators.
While the convening wasn’t a school district event, there are lots of things that organizations can take from this example to make a difference in their own professional learning for teachers. This isn’t just for new teachers, but for all.
This gathering of forward-thinking young adults preparing to enter into the workforce was refreshing. Soon-to-be student teachers and those already in their placements spent their weekend learning about social-emotional learning, classroom management strategies, and the importance of building relationships. They also jumped in as tinkerers and makers in my session on embracing innovation in the classroom. As we learned together, we talked about three important takeaways that we wanted for our students.
- Fueling student curiosity
- Taking risks
- Making connections
Upon further reflection, we realized that these weren’t merely things to consider for the students in our classrooms. These were things that we wanted for our own professional learning.
Strategies to Move Ahead
Sparking curiosity in new ideas should be a part of every lesson. Pulling students in and getting them excited about new learning is a must for new teachers. In order to do this, new teachers will need to be willing to take risks. They need to think outside the box in their instruction. This might mean integrating a strategy to embrace the arts or offering a new technology component. Lastly, we need to equip our new teachers with the ability to make connections. Connections can be across curriculum content areas or connections within the community. It can also mean connecting with one another and using the power of relationships to leverage learning within the classroom.
As we welcome a new generation of teachers into this profession, it’s important to consider their readiness for the critical initiatives that will move our schools forward. Our pre-service teachers and the student teachers that we welcome into our classrooms need to develop a mindset for STEAM education. One that involves the fostering of creativity and innovation in every classroom. How are we preparing them to do that?
Not only do we need our newest teachers to understand the responsibility of teaching in the classroom , but also the mindset that is required in our innovative educational landscape.
Support a Creative Culture
Whether you are a school or district leader, a classroom teacher, or a pre-service teacher hoping to make a difference in your first teaching job, we all need to support a creative culture. What this looks like in each organization may be slightly different, but consider these questions:
- Does my school or district embrace the arts and support arts integration in every classroom?
- Is hands-on learning through STEAM education fostered within the curriculum?
- Do the assessment that my school administers offer creative ways for learners to show what they know?
- In what ways does our professional development for teachers push creative thinking and allow educators to facilitate a creative culture in the classroom?
- Do new teachers have opportunities to learn about fueling curiosity, taking risks, and making connections as a part of their induction into our school or district?
Developing a creative culture in every classroom starts with the teachers who are at the heart of every school building. We can spark a creative mindset through hands-on professional development with pre-service teachers and with those already within the classrooms. We can foster the culture in the way we develop programs and design instruction. It starts with the way we embrace creative thinking and the opportunities we create for all learners, adults and students.