Disobedient Thinking

It was recommended to me a little while ago that I should watch the following TED Talk and I’m so glad I did.

Welby Ings talks about creativity, which he defines as disobedient thinking. It made me think about a few things:

  • I have often wondered about the labels we put on children. On the one hand, I can see why grown ups can be relieved that there is a label and a reason for a certain behavior or way of being, then help can be sought. On the other hand, I wonder how detrimental this can be to the child’s self esteem. It is also clear from the talk that we are kidding ourselves when we think that students don’t realise they are not doing so well when we label them as a “rhino” rather than “below the standard” or just plain “thick.” When we talk in staff rooms we (rightly) avoid the words thick, dumb etc. But are we just putting a positive spin on something when students can see right through it all…?
  • This talk about embracing all learners’ strengths is nothing new either. We have long talked about multiple intelligences and the importance of allowing students to be creative or in their element at school. But you can see how people can have a perspective on schooling like Ings if you are only able to shine in the odd art or PE or technology lesson. Which makes me wonder, how do we balance what is a vital skill of becoming literate, with opportunities to be creative? Are these two things as mutually exclusive as they are often treated in schools? How can we move beyond the talk to actually valuing all different learners?
  • Something that often comes up in my work with teachers is the difficulty we have in shifting the locus of control. I can see why this is, when teachers have all felt what it is like to lose control and have to gain it back as beginning teachers. I can also see why this is a barrier to the kind of thought Ings is talking about. That pesky question of “why are we doing this?” is a threat to control but a great example of critical and analytical thought.
  • I like the idea in the talk of creativity being “ordinary stuff” rather than a special quality reserved to a lucky few.
  • I also liked the idea that organisations are not creative, the individuals in organisations are. It made me wonder about the place individuality and individual thought has in a world where collaboration is so highly valued. After all, you can’t have a team without individuals.
  • Also on this point, Ings says that if everyone “sing(s) from the same song sheet” then the organisation will “never go through the roof” and you will “never get a choir” but a “loud monotone” instead. Which begs the question, how do you balance cohesiveness and moving towards a common goal or vision, with individuality?
  • Lastly, I loved the analogy of “toxic marshmallow” and a “ballet of Pavlov’s dogs” to describe learning which is safe, mediocre and follows a ritual formula. I think it is a matter of setting students up to have success, whilst also not saving them and teaching them to be comfortable with a challenge. No mean feat!

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