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Monday, April 07, 2014

The Importance of Collaboration and Being Connected in Creativity

by Dana Witte

The relationships in our lives that fuel the creative process are key, and the importance of a group of like-minded, supportive creators cannot be underestimated. Connections you find that are deep and positive are a rare gift. Some connections seem to initially light a fire, but become competitive or incestuous, and eventually burn out. There seem to be some key underlying factors that are inherent in our cohort, a group that works to build individual and collective creativity in its members.
  • Readiness. Boy meets Girl. One or the other, or both, are not ready for a relationship. Time passes. Each goes through a variety of experiences that shape them. They meet again, years later, and, if all the stars are aligned, they may then be ready. We know this story. It is not reasonable to think that one champion could bring the creative process forward to his/her staff members and have it take off. We all need to be in a place where we are ready to first embark on the journey ourselves, and then to bring the process forward with our students.   Each of us chose to put ourselves in a graduate class that focused on creativity in education.   We all came to the table with teaching experience and a desire to move both our personal and professional creative practices to a new place.
  • Trust. The members of our collective shared experiences that were constructed to be personal and to elicit self-reflection. If we took the tasks to heart and sincerely risked in front of the group, there was an inherent vulnerability. We all entered into the experiences with openness. If we had not gone through that process together, the result would not have been the same. The trust that became the foundation of the group was built on acceptance and lack of judgment in moments of fragility. From that point forward, each of us was able to grow. Because we were all interested in self-instigated creative development and the creative process, we were able to accept the variety and individuality of our pursuits without competition. There was, and continues to be, a lack of judgment. Feedback about the work was for the sincere sake of growth, and was ‘plussed’.   We celebrated one another’s creative accomplishments and revelations.
  • Respect. There is an unspoken understanding within the collective that we honor each other and bring the very best of ourselves to all of our interactions. There is an expectation that there is positivity. We may not all be able to contribute the same amount to group pursuits at the same time – busy lives demand flexibility – but there is respect for whatever contributions are possible. There is no room for negativity, no jockeying for power, no side-bar conversations. There is a purity within the interactions that comes from a sincere desire to keep the magic happening. We each choose to preserve the integrity, and are intensely aware that having six people to back us up as we sustain our creative efforts is unusual and special.
A year after our coursework was completed, our group is still tight. A group text feed includes seven members whose input is ongoing. It is a lifeline for our creative selves and for personal challenges. Members have gone on vacation and turned off their phones for a weekend, only to return to 137 texts that document lives, best practices in teaching, and explorations in creativity. We meet formally every few months, with some members driving long distances to participate. Our group began with intense face-to-face interactions and experiences. While the texts allow us to reach out to one another frequently, coming together as a group is what really grounds us and is the foundation of our desire to sustain the creative development of our practices and ourselves.
Saturday, April 05, 2014

Becoming Truvy - A Dip in the Creativity Pool

As part of my personal and professional exploration of CREATIVITY, I decided to go to a cold-read audition for the well-known film and play, Steel Magnolias.  I read for a couple of the roles but felt an immediate connection to the character of Truvy as the words flowed out of my mouth. Shortly thereafter I was offered the role and thus began my creative journey into becoming Truvy.

            I am a Drama teacher in my professional life and I try to make sure that I practice what I preach whenever possible. Going to a cold-read audition was part of walking that talk. I also tell my students that I would never ask them to do anything that I wouldn't be willing to do or haven't tried myself. Memorizing hundreds of lines, scheduling rehearsals into my life, and leaving time for things that pop up was all part of the big picture. This would definitely be the type of thing that students would have to do as well upon being cast in a role (within school or other).

            Part of becoming Truvy was trying out different iterations of her persona and experimenting with what this might look like, sound like, and read like on stage. Luckily, we had a patient director that allowed the cast this luxury of exploration time within our rehearsal process. The more iterations and trials of Truvy through the months of rehearsals lead me to become her fully and completely. (The blonde bouffant wig did assist! *see photos below*)

            There were little and large things that I discovered during the process of becoming Truvy that gave me insight into how my students might feel. I realized that I would be a better director and teacher as a result of acting in the role of Truvy. For example, simple assumptions in the rehearsal space can really throw you as an actor once you get to the performance space (managing the set, location of props, movement on the stage, projection of voice, etc.) Allowing appropriate time for self to manage the transformation into a character is also an area that I need to be more mindful of in the future as a teacher/director. Becoming Truvy was a great reminder of the type of learning can happen involving creativity and I am thankful of the gleanings I was able to note.
Friday, April 04, 2014

Just Play: The Maker Education Movement

By Erin Quinn
You may have heard the words "Maker Education" recently in the education field. The maker movement focuses on the design process, and allowing students to learn by doing. It reaches into disciplines like science, technology, engineering, art, music, and even tinkering and do-it-yourself-ing.
Making has always been a part of the way kids learn in my classroom, but the maker education movement becoming more a part of the mainstream education conversation has helped affirm the fact that this kind of learning is useful and valuable.
My school board, the Calgary Board of Education, has recently offered a series of making workshops for teachers. I have signed up for every single one of them. The way the workshops have been structured speaks volumes about the way this kind of learning must be done: the majority of the workshops were allowing us, as teachers, to play and get our hands on the various tools for learning through making.
This has reminded me of the importance of we, as educators, in experiencing the kind of creativity we wish to inspire in our kids. It is so important for us to put ourselves in the same positions we are asking of our students. We need to play, too. We need to tinker, too. This type of learning is an inquiry in itself.
Here's what I made in the workshops I've taken.
I learned how to use conductive thread to connect an LED light to a battery.

And I learned how to wet felt roving wool to make a felted bowl.

I made a car from a rapid prototyping system called Open Beam.

I played with an electronics system called Little Bits.

I learned how to use an Arduino system to make a motor go.