Structures, whilst integral, is the main obstacle to creativity

“Structures, whilst integral, is the main obstacle to creativity”

It’s an oxymoron which popped into my head about 2 hours ago. Something which I’ve always felt strongly about since I entered the education industry as an enrichment trainer.

It’s ironic for me to say this because in doing so, I’m probably trying to cut my own source of income – teaching people to be creative.

To be honest, I’ve always been puzzled of my in-class observations of the many students I’ve taught over 4 years, compared to the observations I made of them outside of the class. It’s as if the physical barriers of the classroom which are designed to provide a safe learning environment for them, is the very barrier to their creativity.

To provide an illustration of what I mean, here’s an example:

I teach Drama and Creative Writing to my students and in the course of what I teach, the activities that I conduct with them are more or less games or behaviours which you’d be able to observe in a pre-schooled child.

If you observe a pre-schooled child, you’d notice that the child would turn anything they’d be able to reach their hands on into something magical and entertaining to their minds. It engages them so much that you actually are able to see the look of joy on their faces when they play with that tissue paper or straw (only god knows what those kids are thinking inside their head).

Or perhaps when you observe a really young child who’s probably between 3-7 years old, you’d see that they could talk about some story which you never even knew was possible. Perhaps, it was possible in their mind, but not to you because you couldn’t understand the logic behind it.

Compare the above examples to my experience when I teach, I see blank faces of uncertainty of trying to turn a belt into an object of imagination. Most can only see the belt as just, A BELT. It takes me a considerable amount of time to explain and demonstrate to them what it can be turned into and even then, some of the imagination is limited. Perhaps it’s the limited experience they’ve been exposed to or the experience of removing their imagination.

And in creative writing, I often get the same boring kind of endings or beginnings to a story. “And they lived happily ever after”, “once upon a time” – you get my drift. I don’t hear enough of stories beginning with a plot, full of enthusiasm as how a young child would start of when they tell describe their fascination of what they’ve experience to their parents. “This boy ran so fast mommy!” – there’s really nothing wrong with starting a story like that because you have a character and description of the character already!

My grouse here is that, in some of the experiences I’ve encountered, the very person who engaged me to conduct these enrichment programmes are perhaps the ones who have created these obstacles in the first place. Getting scolded for saying the wrong answer or asking one to think twice about whether your answer is correct is all part of the blame.

I mean, if school is not the right place to make mistakes, then where else?

Even adults make mistakes and we all hope to be forgiven, to be taught and to be given a chance to redeem ourselves for it. So why take it out on a kid who has had less than half of the experience we’ve been through?

Perhaps the structures of the education system needs to allow more flexibility of choice for passion and interest in order to drive an individual to be at their best, rather than to coop them up within the confines of the structures of the type of lessons they need to learn and undergo. But of course, this can only be achieved if we can allow assessments to be done differently, to assess an individual beyond the ability to memorize text or solve a set of equations.

We are all different and if the very concept of “Differentiation” widely taught and spoken of in education is not practiced, how are we really educating our young ones?

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