Intellectual Risk Taking: Making creativity safe

Elizabeth Gilbert presents a powerful argument for the need to acknowledge the inherent pressure associated with success and achievement. In her case, she draws on her experience of the pressure of writing a novel which can follow the huge success of her first novel. For me, this highlights the pressure that learners experience when they start to get identified as gifted and talented, or simply just by being, ‘…the one who’s good at (x)’. It’s at this point, often hidden from public view, that some learners will start to sabotage their own success. They’ll stop contributing in class discussions, reject any accolades or public celebrations of achievement or simply take the other route and start disengaging from the learning altogether.

Elizabeth Gilbert presents a useful strategy that links with Professor Carol Dweck’s work on Mindsets. Gilbert suggests that we need to separate our ability from ourselves. We need to step away from describing what “I have achieved” and move instead to “This is what my ability has produced”. Now, using such clunky language is not such a great idea, but you get the picture. We need to recognise the endeavour and effort invested in learning and achievement, and celebrate THAT, rather than label the individual as ‘brilliant’ or ‘genius’. Gilbert offers a get-out clause for those who wish to be quietly successful in her presentation.

Alternatively, or possibly, in addition, it is worth taking a look at ow we celebrate achievement in our schools, and, for that matter, society as a whole.

For many who aspire to be the very best at what they do and who seek only to express their passion for what they do, where in school will they find a warm and supportive environment that will guarantee a full-bodied, non-judgemental welcome to their most precious and personal creative offerings?

One thought on “Intellectual Risk Taking: Making creativity safe

  1. I really like the idea of Genie and Genius. Only yesterday at parent’s evening, I was asked about a student being on the Gifted and Talented register and what that meant. I told them about the various enrichment activities we do but I was thinking about something else. Essentially, I was thinking "I’m not convinced your child is gifted at maths."The student works reasonably hard, is good at maths and does well. What I don’t see too much of is the flashes of Genie inspired insight. This makes me wonder whether just picking the top 5 – 10 % of students in a given subject and calling them G&T really does much and is the best way forward.In contrast, I have a year 10 class (set 8 of 9) that I teach once a fortnight. In that class, we were investigating tiled patterns and how they would continue. I was looking for creative ways of continuing the pattern and mentioned to this group that they might like to extend the pattern backwards – What came before that first shape? This group were thinking about that and extended further and came up with the concept of needed to draw ‘minus one’ tiles. One student had the (what I believe to be Genie-us) idea that they could be inverted tiles and I got that sense of the spark coming from ‘somewhere else’.I have a sense of the poem running towards you but more so with ideas of how to continue a maths investigation. In this way, I feel like I get a whole swarm of ideas buzzing towards me and I can only capture some of them to look at in more detail. The others I have to let fly off and find another mathematician to bother.Dave

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