Teachers are much more creative than we sometimes give ourselves credit for. Often, we connotate creativity with being arty, good at drama, music or dance. But when we pause for a moment and think of just how much creativity touches every aspect of our lives, it is mind blowing. Teachers are so creative with how they deliver lessons and objectives to children, changing and updating things year on year to make it even more engaging each time it is delivered. Nothing is more true right now; we have all adapted, learned and created ways to teach lessons online, now that we can no longer walk the pathways of our school buildings.
In November 2019, Forbes listed creativity as the second most important skill for the future. That means – the children in our virtual classrooms today will be the creators of tomorrow. But ask yourself this question – how often do we really give children the time to create and innovate in our classrooms? How many of us still have that nervous feeling when teaching art in particular, during the one art lesson of the week, if we manage to squeeze it in at all? I still hear many colleagues say, ‘Oh I’m not good at art’, and my reply is always ‘Says who?’.
Creativity can be applied to all areas but for the purposes of this article, I will focus on art in particular. Not only should we teach art skills to the children, but I believe it is even more important to teach them that creativity is freedom – the freedom to let your mind and imagination run free to just see what new things you can come up with without there being a right answer or for your creation to be a carbon copy of everyone else’s in the classroom. Aren’t we always using the term ‘innovation’ in education? Innovation does not exist without creativity.
Whilst thinking about how I could give children more opportunities to be creative in my classroom, alongside some continuous provision activities, I decided there had to be an element of freedom and lack of instruction. I wanted to give them space to be with their ideas. However, I am also hugely passionate about wellbeing in education and I have recently completed a masters in positive psychology to offer more to my school in terms of wellbeing education. With a combination of creativity and wellbeing swirling around in my mind like water colours - Creative Wellbeing cards were borne.
Luckily for me, my dear friend also has a huge passion for art. So much so, that she created her own company purely to encourage art in education. Drawings By Me are known throughout schools in Dubai for turning children’s artwork into ‘memories you can hold on to’ by printing their pieces of art on to mugs, diaries and gift cards amongst many other things. A beautiful way to encourage creativity and a love of art . Upon telling my friend about my creative wellbeing ideas – the rest was history and together we made it happen!
Now, here comes the wellbeing bit. Forbes’ top skill in their article for the future? Emotional Intelligence – not only understanding our own emotions but those of others too. The creative wellbeing cards encourage children (and adults) who pick them up to create some artwork based on emotions. Each card gives you an idea of what to draw on your page – but no instruction. For example, ‘Draw an emotion rainbow’. Sounds simple, but the possibilities are plentiful and the opportunity for dialogue between children and adults, whilst they create something on the page, can be very special indeed. A creative way to enhance emotional intelligence.
The other five areas, which the Creative Wellbeing cards focus on, are mindfulness, optimism, growth mindset, gratitude and resilience. Each area has many years of extensive scientific research in the academic field of positive psychology, outlining the benefits of practicing and learning more about the above concepts (plus many more) to enhance our overall subjective wellbeing and to improve mental health. The absence of mental illness does not constitute mental health. Although we might be at a point in life where we are relatively happy and content, we can continue to strive towards flourishing. I truly believe we can support all children to flourish, not just academically but emotionally too.
Being resident in Dubai, many of us here may not travel over the summer during these uncertain times. However, one thing is for certain here – the heat! Summer will look different for us all across the globe but perhaps many, like me, will welcome the break from the screen. Perhaps it can be a time of wandering the path of creativity again, like we did when we were very young? If you have children at home, you could try the activities on the Creative Wellbeing cards together. You could try them with friends whilst sitting on a blanket in the park (that idea if for those of you not in Dubai J ) or at home with a cup of tea. However you choose to give yourself space to be creative – consider your wellbeing as an essential colour.
Creative Wellbeing cards are available from www.mindfulmissgreen.com amongst other resources including free guided meditations.
Visit Drawings By Me on YouTube to access many free art tutorials based on UK curriculum objectives.