Freedom, Creativity and Imagination… where did you go?

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How is creativity and imagination fostered? 

I was very lucky to receive piano lessons whilst I was growing up. The teacher I have the fondest memory of was a teacher who would record songs for me on a tape each week and ask me to listen to this tape over and over at home. My homework each week was to learn the songs by ear and come up with a new melody or chord structure. I LOVED learning music this way. 

Unfortunately, we did not stay with that piano teacher very long because my parents were afraid that I was not “really learning music”. (As Mum and Dad were not particularly musical themselves they were worried that I wasn’t reading the notes as much as I should have been). Now I am a professional musician (who did learn to read the notes eventually anyway), and I realise the gift that this teacher gave me and helped me develop. She inspired me to be creative and to imagine. She taught me to use my own knowledge to create new ideas. She gave me a little and then gave me the time to create a lot. Through these lessons I learnt to ponder, to choose and to refine my work. She let me feel that I was capable of coming up with my own ideas and that these were valued.  

This is the most constructive creativity - the opportunity for people to develop and explore their own ideas in whatever mode or medium they feel passionate about. 

I spoke recently with a Primary School teacher from a school on Brisbane’s north side who explained that a child in her class had recently told her that, “I used to have a fun time in preschool but now here it is just hard work”. The same teacher received other similar negative comments from her young students who all felt that there was nothing fun anymore. Some parents even let this teacher know that their children had started pretending they were sick on the days that the teacher had scheduled tests. Needless to say, this Early Childhood Teacher who has been teaching for the past ten years was heartbroken. One, because her students felt such stress and unhappiness in her environment, and two because she did not have the flexibility at her particular school to change her pedagogy to suit her students, even though she wanted to. This teacher said to me, “There is no time in our planning for creative work anymore. We don’t have time for art, we don’t have time for exploring the children’s interests”. She also related a story to me from the previous day: She had asked the children to write CVC words in their books. One little boy had written the first word down (cat), then next to this word he had started drawing a beautifully detailed cat complete with whiskers! She told me; “I just let him do that instead because I saw that for the first time in the whole day he looked pleased. He was concentrating and working tremendously hard on his creative work. He was enthralled because this picture was coming from his heart. 

Perhaps the children in her class felt school was “just hard work” because it was exactly that. The children were not given any opportunity to develop their own interests or use their own imagination. 

Montessori education follows the idea that learning and well-being are improved when people have a sense of control over their lives. Montessori believed people learn better when they are interested in what they are learning. She argued that at all costs children should be given the freedom to explore, be creative and imaginative because that is their true nature. 

I believe everyone has a special gift that they bring to the world. Montessori education encourages children to find what they are really passionate about and gives them the time to develop this gift. We all want or need to be I.T. experts or musicians but we DO all need to find what we love doing and have the creativity and imagination to realise how to achieve our goals. 

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  • Jemma Hicks
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