write or wrong

I had a very important interview after school today:  I applied for the River Bend Writing Project Invitational Summer Institute hosted by USI–5-week program where pre-service teachers, current classroom teachers, and university instructors can sit and share and experiment with reading and writing theory by pursuing topics of their choice.  A writer’s dream, and dream for a teacher of writing.  I spent months preparing my application packet:  a combination of a 1,000-word essay, and samples of lessons and personal writing.  In my essay, I focused primarily on my experiences teaching creative writing, starting with the words I remember sharing with students on the first day of class.  I reflected on how fear–then and now–affects my ability to openly write and share my thoughts with others.  Doubt is a horrible, powerful thing, which begins a seedling and consumes the energy and life force of creativity.

In my current occupation, I am exposed to all kinds of tremendous voices who speak of our 21st century world and the state of education.  One is Sir Ken Robinson–a man whose accent captivates just as much as his message:  education kills creativity.  “Kill” is a pretty strong word, but it often takes strong words to motivate people to take action.  I would like to think that when I taught, I wasn’t one of those teachers, one whose harsh judgment toward mistakes didn’t move students to try harder, but rather pushed them to avoid risk-taking because no answer is better than a wrong one.  Here is a segment from his TED talk:

“All kids have tremendous talents and we squander them.  Pretty ruthlessly….Creativity now is as important as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status….Kids will take a chance, and if they don’t know, they’ll have a go.  They’re not frightened of being wrong.  Now, I don’t mean to say that being wrong is the same as being creative.  What we do know is that if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original.  If you’re not prepared to be wrong.  And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity.  They have become frightened of being wrong.  We run our companies this way…we stigmatize mistakes, and we’re now running our national education systems where mistakes are the worst things that you can make.  And the result is we are educating people out of their creative capacities.  Picasso once said this, he said, ‘All children are born artists.’  The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up….I believe that we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it.  Or, rather, we get educated out of it.”  — Sir Ken Robinson | YouTube link

Maybe this is one of the reasons they say ignorance is bliss.

I think of the times when I confidently, proudly prepared photocopies of my best writing for workshop, only to have them ripped to shreds by my peers and the instructor.  And how much that hurt.  And how I began to question the power and validity of the story which was only mine to tell.

“Here,” I told my creative writing students last year, “we will be constructive and respectful of everyone’s art because it is an extension of himself, and it takes great courage to willingly invite others to judge.”

Maybe that’s why I’ve had the Wicked soundtrack stuck on repeat in my head lately, because somewhere this idea has been percolating, building momentum, waiting for its opportunity to reach others in fiction or nonfiction or art.  Elphaba, a character with whom I feel an incredible connection, says in “Defying Gravity:”

“I’m through accepting limits
”cause someone says they’re so
Some things I cannot change
But till I try, I’ll never know!” | YouTube link

Okay, Elphie–so where can I get some of your confidence, your determination?


One response to this post.

  1. Missy,
    I think you and I must be kindred spirits. Sir Ken and Elphaba both in the same post, I love it and I completely understand where you’re coming from. This is my Elphaba moment- http://iceteacher.blogspot.com/search/label/RSCON3 but Sir Ken was featured in a different post.
    My fingers are crossed that you are invited to attend the River Bend Writing Project!

    – Sara


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