Contribution as Creativity

Words are powerful. Words matter. One word that I’ve been reflecting on this past week is compliance. This is a word that we hear a lot about in education, as in “the industrial model of education rewards compliance.”

It was during a conversation in my second session about “Empowering Student Changemakers” on the Skilled.Space platform that got me thinking about compliance in education. We were discussing ways to get students to engage with their learning and one of the participants said, “Creativity is a way to fight compliance”. They added, “If you have a culture of compliance it is working against everything you are trying to do to get them to be creative.”

I found these statements interesting so I quickly jotted them down. I made a mental note to do some further research to dig into these ideas. But there was still a conversation happening. As the conversation continued additional ideas about empowering students were added. 

Someone shared about using an asset-based approach to shine the light on proper student behavior during school versus emphasizing rules on what not to do. Another participant explained how they disrupt the paradigm of the “sage on a stage” dynamic by using speaking prompts to provide space for students to act as content experts. And finally, one of the other attendees revealed how they utilize a student vote to decide on a classroom activity.

All this sharing led to more questions that I wrote in my notes. What is the role of creativity in the classroom? How else do we fight compliance? Do we talk enough about how to fight compliance? What does it mean to be creative?

When the conversation ended I took a walk outside to reflect on the discussion. The word compliance remained at the top of my mind. I recalled that one of my favorite writers Seth Godin had described the role of compliance in our education models. When I returned home a quick Google search led me to his Medium article “Stop Stealing Dreams.” But also to a shorter lesser-known blog post titled “Compliance is quite different from contribution”.

Reading that post put together a new idea in my mind. My thinking progressed from compliance as a relic of education to creativity as a way to fight compliance, and finally to contribution as a foil of compliance. The only logical conclusion is that contribution can be an expression of creativity. That is how conversation can propel!

Prior to this conversation, I had not thought of including “contribution” as part of the changemaker word cloud. Nor had I thought of contribution as having a relationship with creativity. I am grateful for this insight as a way to make creativity more accessible to educators that may be intimidated by creativity being solely an expression of artistry. 

As a musician, I am comfortable with the concept of creativity, but I have found that many educators without an artistic background are not. I hope that sharing this insight from our conversation will help other educators see contribution as a window into creativity.

This is why these open conversations are so important. Joining a group of thoughtful educators for a conversation increases your chances of hearing something that will challenge you to explore an idea in new ways. Having hosted two of these sessions now I believe even more in the power of conversation to propel.