This is not my manifesto. Credit belongs to the late E. Paul Torrance, a leader in gifted education. I learned of it during a most fantastic conference of the Indiana Association for the Gifted, of which I am privileged to be part of the conference committee and soon-to-be board member (knock on wood). Torrance, who prized creativity and independent thought, gives these wise words to children in his Creative Manifesto:
Take a moment and let that sink in. How many hours are spent trying to make kids "well-rounded" and learning to regurgitate what is told to them to earn a letter grade based on rather arbitraray measures? How often do the kids come up with the questions, the passion, the learning objectives that are meaningful to them, as opposed to answering the questions given them? Right now, in my Vera Bradley teacher bag, I have about 5 inches worth of level 2 and 3 questions about The Crucible to grade. Questions I think are important. Questions the kids were motivated to answer (in complete sentences with proper punctuation) in large part because it was for a grade and there's a test Thursday over the material. Looking over this list, however, it's hard to fit the expectations of school in with these very impactful words on how to be successful in life! It's as if school and life are compartmentalized. As if, as an adult, my work and my life are compartmentalized. How often do I waste energy doing things that aren't my greatest strengths, ending up frustrated and feeling like a failure? How often do I put my intense passions on the back burner to attempt to be "well-rounded"? I doubt Steve Jobs, George Lucas, JK Rowling, Ernest Hemingway, or any great leader in a field cared much for fitting into a box or checking things off a list of what makes a well-rounded person.
Going forward, I will put this manifesto on a little laminated card on my desk, and try to hit as many as possible when planning, and make sure my students get a copy. It'll be a challenge to fit state standards into all of these, particularly with students who decidedly do NOT have the passion for English literature that I do - but I want to show students how to funnel the skills they learn into their passions.
I'm fortunate to work at a school with a maker space - that's just one way the creativity and impulse to CREATE rather than simply USE goods can be developed in the students. I don't know any answers right now, but one of my passions (and something I love and can do well) is teaching kids. But I need to go beyond teaching and focus on developing student life pursuits of their own interests and strengths. Perhaps that will be what I create for myself. Perhaps I'll fail a whole bunch of times before I sort of get it right, but isn't that the point? To never actually reach perfection, but spend a lifetime in passionate pursuit of it?
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Courtney is a most fabulous writer and teacher of gifted middle school students. She is the author of two novels - see the "Cate Books" page of this site for information! Watch for updates about future books that need to be part of your personal library. In the meanwhile, enjoy her pithy life observations.