07 January 2011

Three things teaching English has taught me about creativity

I resisted the idea of teaching English when I first moved to Turkey. Part of it was that I didn't want to give up other pursuits to teach, but the other part was not feeling in my own skin as a second-language learner of Turkish. My brain felt crowded with new words and a new cultureIf I couldn't speak Turkish, how could I get others to be enthused about learning English? Six years later, I've gotten my footing as a teacher, I can speak Turkish, and lo and behold, teaching English has taught me something about creativity.

Here are three things that make me think creativity and teaching English have a lot in common:

1. Comprehension evolves

I don't worry when my students don't understand what I'm saying. I worry when they don't listen and think for themselves. The words will come, the sentences will piece together like patchwork, but they need to trust that they will absorb the language over time by using it. True for both learning a second language and creativity? Listening. Paying attention. Being open. Giving the dictionary or rule book a break every now and then.

2. Innovation happens under pressure

Tara Agacayak talks about obstacles being way-finders in her blog post Now on Turquoise Poppy.

"We should give thanks when we are stopped in our tracks for being forced to innovate an alternative."

When teaching English, I have to think on my feet and come up with things on the fly. I stockpile ideas for quick pinch situations, like having ten minutes left of class and 20 grumbly second-graders. Paper. Pencil. Draw. Artists and writers crave innovation and alternatives because at the heart of creativity is being a problem solver.

3. Start with a ritual, end with something unconventional

In the classroom, I start the lesson with the same greeting and intro. The lesson relies on that daily ritual, but then branches out and turns into something organic. When I sit down to write or draw, I prepare mentally and ready my supplies with ritual, too. I open Scrivener or pull out a watercolor notebook. I keep my pens handy, and brushes clean. Doing the same ritual whenever I sit down to work triggers my memory and gets me ready to go.

Have you ever drawn a parallel between two things you didn't think were compatible?
blog comments powered by Disqus