Thursday, January 3, 2013

Celebrating Creative Superheroes

Today's post comes from Kathy Melton, who is a principal in Oswego, Illinois.

With a 5th grader, two 3rd graders, & a 1st grader all under my roof, I have enjoyed (understatement) seeing how my children's own learning has developed within and beyond the walls of their schools. Further, from an academic programming standpoint, two of my daughters are English Language Learners, having joined our family three years ago from Ethiopia. Three of my children have participated in reading intervention, two in speech and language support, and one in academically talented services. As an educator and a mom, I understand how varied the needs of children can be and how much of a challenge it can be to both enrich and support.

I also know the incredible gift of seeing creative energy unfold in my own children aside from any of the ways we might describe their academic path; I believe all children have this within. In recent weeks, I read and commented on Day 5: Dreaming About Education by @stumpteacher #12DOD on Brett Clark's blog. Josh Stumpenhorst's post mentioned engaging children at school at the level they are engaged at home and the need for parents and teachers to come together, among many other points I recommend you take time to read and consider. I considered these words as a mom rather than simply a school principal and shared this:

So many items here that I agree with as an educator and a mom, Josh. Wondering if I could do better as a mom to share out the engaged learning that happens in my home. Recently our basement has been transformed into 'Hogwarts' where my kids and their cousins created a class to teach one another. My son and his friends also took sidewalk chalk to the unfinished basement floor a different day to draw bases for their Star Wars ships as they mapped out what my son calls a figure battle. How do we share what happens unprompted in our homes with a larger community to demonstrate what can happen? I know as an educator, I've considered and reconsidered a lot from observing this in my own home coupled with my conversations with educator/parents like you.

So as educators and parents, how DO we harness this creative energy? How do we make that super-power a way of being and not just a fleeting moment when they are very young? How do we know that the spirit we see in kindergarten can continue to shape them as learners beyond? While this can indeed lead into some complex conversations from homework to developmentally appropriate practice and beyond, start by thinking what you can do in your role ,whether it be parent, teacher, administrator, or teacher of teachers, to promote and value student creativity; it is probably more than you realize. 

I think back to visiting a class the last week before winter break that was being led by a substitute teacher. As the children prepared to color seals, the substitute talked about what color seals should be and what colors or patterns they are simply not. I couldn’t help but smile as I watched twenty-four little kindergarten heads shake back and forth in disagreement. One girl stated: “It is okay for my seal to have stripes if I want. My teacher said" 

Let’s pledge to encourage that creativity where we can, celebrate it when we see it, and be outspoken about "permission." If you feel the same and are a teacher, do your students know you’re inspired by their creativity and want them to use that gift? If you’re an administrator and you agree, do your teachers know where you stand? Do they know creative sometimes trumps “right”? And back to the initial question I posed to Josh, how do we showcase that creativity so that its difference-making power shines through?

You can find Kathy on Twitter: @principalkmelt, check out her blog: Once Upon a Principalship; or send her an e-mail.

Tomorrow: "Teaching with Intention," by @countryfunCC.


  1. What a great post! I'm pinning it in the hopes that parents see it as well as educators.

  2. Thank you for sharing this Kathy, I enjoyed reading it. You bring up a lot of questions that I have been asking myself as I work more closely with parents in their homes. Many of them are told by their children's teachers that their children should be "doing this" or "doing that" rather than highlighting the amazing creative energy that the children bring to their play and learning. What I've seen happen then is that the parents get nervous and begin to limit their children's play and instead filling their time with classes and homework. As teachers, I think we need to be very careful about the way we talk to parents and I think we need to take a step back and sometimes reevaluate the messages we are sending parents when we fail to highlight the wonderful, wacky, creative things that the children are doing. Your post also brings me back to my always continued thoughts of how we can work to strengthen the parent-teacher partnership, rather that struggle for power. I look forward to reading your blog!

  3. Your point about parents sometimes feeling a need to replace play time with 'work' time is right on; we do need to be careful about how we frame those conversations. Thanks for reading and commenting! I should also share that my 5th grade son, Mark, drew the figures above. They evolved into puppets along the way.

  4. Kathleen, enjoyed reading your post. Would have enjoyed teaching under a principal who valued creativity.
    That is one big benefit of operating my own program - I can let the creativity flow for both the children and myself. In doing so I also think I am providing a benefit to their future teachers. I have always believed that one of the greatest gifts I can give to the children in my care is to encourage the development of their imagination (creativity). With an imagination one's learning potential is infinite. For my parents, I really push the concept that it's all about the process, not the product. We also do many multiple day projects, so it isn't about instant gratification, but a strong sense of achievement when a goal is accomplished.
    While reading about the activities of your children, I was thinking about all the adventures the large box in our space, decorated by the children, has offered over the last 3 yrs. Also remembering watching Junk Yard Wars with my preschool age son, watching him build his version of the challenge during the next week and now almost finished with his college degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology. Or my daughter and all the doodle pads that have accumulated here over the years who is now a graphic designer. Today's lessons open doors and possibilities for the future.

  5. Thanks for sharing. So interesting to see how your children's early exploring translated to their future contributions as an engineer and graphic designer!