Embracing the Creative Side of Teaching

The longer I teach, the more I see teaching as a highly creative endeavor. Initially, a more mechanical view prevailed for me. In my earlier years as a teacher, I undertook a more formula-like approach by following a behaviorist stance of stimulus-response. If I do X, then my students would do Y, I reasoned. Of course, teaching is never that simple. There are so many intervening factors. And, there is limitless room for alternate ways to address teaching challenges.

Although we may not see ourselves as artists, we as teachers are very close to being artists. Note how Donald Finkel (2000) defines good teaching as “creating those circumstances that lead to significant learning in others” (p. 8). Figuring out how to do this involves a complex set of creative actions. Unfortunately, the pressures of accountability, unrealistic self-expectations, and the orientation of student as customer/consumer can diminish our tendency toward creativity. However, I believe that we should embrace the notion of teachers as artists.

An artist has a fresh view and an open mind. An artist looks at things from various angles or perspectives. Being an artist gives one freedom to do things differently. An artist is not afraid to try something new. He or she looks for inspiration in all kinds of experiences. As teachers, we should take more of an artistic view of ourselves.

When we support a view of ourselves as artists, we can remain (or become) effective as we reach students and promote learning. Seize the creative side of teaching!

Tips for Teachers
There is artistry in planning, in interacting with students, in delivering instruction, and in determining whether students learned, but we often overlook this aspect of the profession. One place to begin would be changing our perspective. Try putting yourself in the students’ place and asking how they see things and what would work better. Pay attention to things that attract students’ interest outside of the classroom. Look for ways to incorporate these interests into the classroom—for example, music, pop culture, or campus events.

Questions to ponder:

  • Why might I not see my teaching as a creative opportunity? What forces impede my creativity? Which ones are within my control?
  • How can I seize a chance to be creative? How could I assume more the role of a designer?
  • What idea sources might I be overlooking? How might these ideas enhance my teaching efforts and help students to learn?

Reprinted from “The Artist Within,” Journey of Joy: Teaching Tips for Reflection, Rejuvenation and Renewal. Magna Publications, 2013. PDF e-book.