In the third and final article in this series, Chaz Pugliese examines the impact that creativity can have on teachers.

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The impact of creativity on teachers

In the previous article, we saw why creativity is highly valued by the students. In this article, we’ll focus on the impact that creativity has on language teachers, and how you can become more creative yourself.

What the teachers say

A while ago, I interviewed 65 teachers to find out more about the place that creativity has in their teaching and how creativity is used in their lessons. Teachers have always known intuitively that a certain inventiveness is a great asset in education. In its simpler form, creativity is needed to personalize a lesson, for example. In its more sophisticated forms, creativity will allow the teacher to solve more complex instructional problems and come up with original solutions.

Let me share some of the most illuminating answers:

Creativity is a feeling of freedom, autonomy, it’s about being able to experiment and develop new ideas and try them out in class.’ David (45, Ireland).

Being creative is being able to adapt and be flexible and the best way I know to avoid routine.’ Lucy (31, Australia).

I look at a lesson as a work of art. I’m an amateur sculptor and that comparison has always made sense to me.’ James (58, USA).

Creativity is essential: I like to look for ways that are not run-of-the-mill to motivate my students, open doors, arouse their curiosity and, at the same time, satisfy mine.’ Ann (46, England).

I would simply quit teaching if I couldn’t be creative in my work. Creativity is an important factor in my career. I believe teaching and learning should be fun, so obviously, creativity helps me work toward that goal.’ Tom (38, USA).

It turns out teachers use creativity for a variety of reasons. Some teachers are creative because they just enjoy it, some use creativity as an antidote to routine and burn-out, and some others look at creativity as a problem-solving tool. For a lot of teachers, finding more imaginative ways to teach boosts their self-esteem and gives them a strong sense of personal and professional achievement. Finally, some teachers use creative approaches because they seem driven by more aesthetic considerations, almost as if for them a lesson has to be useful and ‘beautiful’ at the same time.

Whichever the reason, however, one thing is certain: creativity clearly matters massively to teachers to an extent that it can be considered a pedagogic must and not a fringe, optional extra.

How can I become more creative?

One thing is certain – everyone can be creative. Creativity is not a gift from the gods above. It is not a fixed trait, and can, in fact, be developed. But creativity must be invited, welcomed, embraced. There’s a myth that you need to be inspired in order to be creative. Well, this is just a myth. Most creative people will tell you this is not true, and that creativity is hard work. Clearly, though, there are no magic pills. Below, you will find just a few general ideas to get you going. 

  • Cherish the company of creative people: have conversations with them, ask questions, challenge them.
  • Seize the moment. Creativity won’t wait. Always have a pencil and paper ready. When an idea strikes, don’t brush it aside thinking that you’ll remember it later. You won’t.
  • Choose the best time of the day for creative pursuits and stick to it.
  • Don’t give up if one idea that had looked promising didn’t lead you anywhere in the end. Put it on the back burner and come back to it later.
  • Take baby steps. Remember: you’re not trying to revolutionize the teaching field. You don’t need the pressure. Remember that every bit helps and that mistakes are most welcome. Fail, and aim to fail better each time, to quote Samuel Beckett.
  • Value feedback, but believe in what you do and don’t give up. Negative reactions have never stopped creative people from going ahead.
  • Take sensible risks. Remember: students love surprises but aren’t so keen on being shocked!
  • Most importantly: play, play and have fun. The French surrealist writer Andre Breton said it best – ‘Teacher: enjoy yourself or you’ll bore us!’