Myth #1: Creativity belongs to the few. We tend to make comments, such as "that person is just so creative" or "I'm not really that creative." We assume creative minds are few and far between because they seem to be in short supply.
Truth #1: Creativity belongs to everybody.
As Sir Ken Robinson underlines in his renowned TED talk, schools are designed in such a way that creativity has a slim chance of survival. That's because creativity is often not encouraged or taught! Creativity is evident in our early years and is unfortunately educated out of us. Creativity is at the core of what makes us human: we should not only use our creativity muscle but strengthen it with regular exercise.
Myth #2: Creativity requires inspiration.
While inspiration is great, it's not necessary to be creative. In fact, seeking inspiration or spending too much time planning will stall your creative process rather than push you closer to actually creating.
Truth #2: Creativity requires action.
Creativity is what happens when you use your imagination and possibilities emerge. But these creative ideas must come out of your brain and body and move into action.
I love to paint, but I need to bring my brush to canvas and actually start painting to let my creativity flow. Creativity begins once you actually start creating something.
Myth #3: Only new ideas are creative.
The idea that something brand new must be brought to the table for it to count as creative is what repels most from attempting to be creative. Considering the mass amount of creative ideas that already exist, we are certain to experience the recycling of ideas. This myth is what holds far too many back from sharing their creativity with the world.
Truth #3: YOUR ideas are creative.
Yes, you! Do you find yourself holding yourself back and wondering what it is you have to share with others that would be worthwhile? I guarantee you have creative ideas and creative acts boiling up inside of you. Creativity is combining two or more already existing ideas together and presenting them through a unique lens: YOUR own.
So stop doubting your own creativity, and start using it already!
Mindfulness has become synonymous with meditation. This is a damaging falsehood.
Meditation is just one way to develop mindfulness.
So what is mindfulness? According to a myriad of sources, mindfulness includes "being in the present moment" and "being aware". This is still too broad, so I define mindfulness as "intentional single-tasking".
In a world where multi-tasking has become the norm, single-tasking has fallen out of favor. Through mindfulness, single-tasking is making its comeback.
When you practice mindfulness, you are supposed to acknowledge the thoughts that are unrelated to your current focus, but then intentionally bring yourself back to the present moment.
This is why meditation seems like a popular answer for mindfulness, but I don't see the skills developed in meditation transfer to other areas of my students' work ethic and lives.
As much as I value meditation and breathing exercises to calm the mind and body, explicitly teaching single-tasking might have a greater impact on how we function as a society.
My husband frequently complements me on my ability to focus. But this is not because of something innate; it is because I am intentionally mindful about the task I'm working on. Everything else fades out of view and the task at hand is in focus.
I will be the first to admit that I am not always mindful; I may glance at my phone out of habit or think about something else while listening to someone talk.
But now that I understand what mindfulness really is, I try to apply it to all aspects of my life. I try to really enjoy the food I eat, to fully listen, and to be present in the moment, all while acknowledging the distractions and thoughts that may want to lure me away from the task at hand.
Please think of mindfulness as "intentional single-tasking" and stop bundling it up with meditation.
While comments and questions such as, "I remember elementary school math, I could easily teach it" or "Isn't teaching glorified babysitting?" or "You're just a teacher?" are frustrating, it's important to remember that those who say these things actually have no idea what teaching entails. Rather than feel deflated by these statements, educate!
1. Teaching is incredibly challenging. As much as there are classes, books, and guides about how to be a great teacher, each day is different. Each student, class, family, school, and year are different. Everything is constantly in flux, evolving, and changing. Just when you think you have something figured out, something else lands on your plate that you've never encountered.
2. Teachers work more hours than one can imagine. The school day doesn't just start and stop when the bell does. Teachers are grading, planning, organizing, collaborating, in meetings, and preparing for the next day. Teachers work countless hours after school and on the weekends. Just because the school day is over, doesn't mean it's over for a teacher.
3. Teaching requires flexibility. A teacher might have a fantastic lesson planned for students when a cockroach enters the classroom. A sharp teacher will use that moment as an opportunity to teach about cockroaches, their physiology, function, and lifespan. Teachers must think on their feet, improvise, and adjust to meet the needs of their students.
4. Teachers are required to be 'on' the entire day. Teachers are relied upon by students, families, and administrators to keep the peace, encourage, love, motivate, inspire, support, care, push, help, listen, and stay positive. When done well, this is incredibly draining. To love that much, to listen, to be there, to be fully present, to have conversations about challenges and successes, takes a lot of patience and energy. Teaching requires a great deal of emotional energy, more than most professions. Teachers will often be drained at the end of a school day and benefit from a bit more support and understanding.
5. Teaching is deeply rewarding. In what other profession is it your job to help shape young minds, inspire curiosity about the world, push students to reach their full potential, introduce ideas and concepts that spark new ideas, and motivate those who are ready to give up on themselves to believe they too can make a difference? Teaching is a noble, worthwhile, and necessary profession which not only has a great impact on individuals but affects the vitality of society at large.
Vacation time is meant to allow you to relax, recharge, and refuel. Make sure to make the most of your vacation instead of making these common mistakes:
Mistake #1. Ever feel like you need a vacation after a vacation?
This is more common than we realize. Taking a break doesn't mean to pack everything possible into the days you have off, only to become exhausted and realize you need at least a day to run errands around the house, shut your brain off, and sleep in.
More and more, my friends and I talk about the importance of putting in buffer days before and after we travel and count those as part of our vacation time. We shouldn't feel guilty for curling up on the couch and reading a good book, or playing video games, or binge-watching a favorite Netflix show. A vacation might include exploration and seeing new things, but pace yourself.
What to do? Include a healthy balance of play and relaxation. I encourage you to think in 2s. Perhaps explore 2 cool things in one day, but make sure to schedule in at least 2 things that will make you and your vacation partners feel happy and relaxed.
Remember, being exhausted and stressed from too much activity is the antithesis to the purpose of a vacation.
Mistake #2. Technology rules the vacation experience.
I fall into this trap more frequently than I would like to admit to, but leave your laptop and your phone behind as much as possible. I understand that having a smartphone is helpful: it helps you located new points of interest, map your way to a new place, or can be used in an emergency.
That being said, checking social media sites, browsing online, and furiously checking email in order to make us think we're still being productive not only saps away our own vacation time, but it takes us away from being present. You don't need to ban technology entirely (but how cool would that be?), but if you must use it, use it in moderation.
What to do? Turn off all your alerts and notifications. Hearing a 'ding' every time an email comes in makes you want to check your email. Disable that! Turn off your notifications from other apps as well. It's a time-suck. And if you want to post pics from your vacation, wait until you finish your vacation. Be in the moment. Post pics when you return. This allows you to relive those moments and somewhat extends your vacation time.
If being on social media or randomly browsing feels like it should be part of your vacation time, reserve an hour a day to do so and stick to it. An hour is a long time! If you sporadically are on your phone and laptop throughout the day, you might be surprised how often you're online without any real purpose and I bet it would add up to over an hour.
Remember, please don't do work on your vacation - you're on vacation! You'll come back to your work with fresh eyes when you actually take a break from it!
Mistake #3: Focusing on the future instead of enjoying the present.
It's completely natural to think about the next adventure when you're on a current break. Vacation time makes you dream about the next vacation. Future dreaming with friends, family, or on your own is an important and healthy process.
But spending too much of your time thinking about work, what you need to do when you get back, and focusing on anticipated future fears that may not be grounded in any reality, can be dangerous. This takes you out of your relaxation mode and lands you in stress mode.
What to do? Be in the present moment. This is what mindfulness is all about. If you're reading a book, read that book. If you're enjoying a meal, truly enjoy that meal. If you're watching a movie, watch the movie. These seem obvious, but with the increasing distractions around us, and with our phones and laptops in reach, we might pause to look at something else instead of fully being present in the moment. Yes, this does happen. Haven't you seen the many people who are on their smartphones while they're out having dinner together at a restaurant?
Remember to be fully present to make the most out of your vacation time.
Mistake #4: Don't just focus on relaxing, remember you need to refuel.
Some people are great at taking relaxing vacations. They'll park themselves on a beachfront and just lay out each day. Swim, tan, eat, sleep, repeat. There's nothing wrong with this. In fact, as I write this, I would love a few days of this myself. However, vacation isn't just a time to unwind, it's also a time to recharge and refuel. It's important to awaken the creative and playful sides of ourselves and provide opportunities for us to recharge our minds and bodies.
What to do? Work out. Pick up a hobby. Create something. My husband and I are playing tennis. We go to the gym together. We take long walks. We're keeping active and having fun. Our bodies are thanking us for it.
And we're writing a novel with two other fantastic friends. Our brains are loving the creative process and we're having more fun writing and collaborating on a novel than we realized was even possible. It's a real page-turner by the way. I'll let you know once we're done.
And, I love to paint. This is my passion hobby and is my regular mini-vacation throughout the year. I like to create a painting in a day. It feels rewarding and I can feel my creative juices flowing. It's a way that I recharge.
Remember to not only relax but to also refuel your body and your brain.
I dream of an education that is no longer broken down by subjects but rather reflects real life experiences.
I dream of a school that fosters true partnerships with families, the communities that surround it, and the world at large.
I dream of a school that embraces choice, pushes students to make a difference, and embraces the creative process.