The Art of Creativity: The White Moment

The white moment is when everything clicks. You know how that feels. It's when you're trying to balance chemical equations or put together an IKEA bookshelf or talk yourself into loving to run. The white moment is the point when what you can do meets what you're expected to do. It's beautiful and inspiring.

We want our students to feel the same "ah-ha" moment. But it doesn't just happen, right? Goleman and Kaufman (1992) argue that a fun environment is ideal for cultivating creativity.

Imagine this. You are a self-conscious teenage boy who has been assigned to work on a project with two popular (and kinda cute) girls. Your teacher directs you to brainstorm possible solutions to the problem and you're hesitant. You didn't come to this class to make a fool of yourself! So, you do what you know. You joke around. You start tossing out crazy ideas and when one girl responds with a funny look, you quip, "What? I was only kidding!"

As the teacher, you may see laughing and silliness as off-task behavior. But fun and relaxed environments are crucial to cultivating creativity. It's when ideas flow freely because we're less self-conscious. Goleman and Kaufman (1992) describe the creativity work of Teresa Amabile, a psychologist. Amabile identified five sure-fire ways to stifle the creativity of your students. Ready?

1. Surveillance (i.e., wearing out the carpet in your room because you're a land drone on a mission, buzzing around to look over every kid's shoulder)

2. Evaluation (i.e., stressing out your students about their grades)

3. Competition (i.e., emphasizing who is the best/fastest/most creative in the class)

4. Overcontrol (i.e., being the one with all of the answers and not giving students choice)

5. Pressure (i.e., setting expectations too high)

However, this is not an all or nothing situation. Some competition is positive. Some pressure motivates students to push themselves. Like everything else in teaching, it's absolutely essential that you know your students so that you know how to appropriately challenge them. I know it's hard, but you're a superstar and you can do this!

But if you prioritize creativity in your classroom (and you should!), then you need to consider Amabile's ideas AND you should start thinking (right now!) about the fun you allow to infiltrate your room. If you don't know how to do that, start the brainstorming process, allow yourself to have fun, and open yourself to your own white moment. 

Read the article here!