“ The good, the bad and the ugly”.. teaching (with) Creativity

2 years ago ( from The Science Basement in Helsinki), I assisted to a presentation from a Biologist; she presented in this manner: “ the good, the bad and the ugly”…bacterias you can find in concrete buildings and that are affecting our lungs. I was simply fascinated. It had nothing to do with the subject, nor the presenter charisma but with the Integrated Approach to Learning (curriculum): looking beyond “ the obvious”; we open up and we allow CREATIVITY to be present in the room ( the invitation to dwell with “why is this relevant for me?”). 

The 21st-century education means we are preparing children/students ( and really ourselves) to deal with ill-defined problems, wicked problems, in a context that is very little predictable & repetitive ( see Stanford Creativity Course professor Michael Ray).

The Science Basedment presentation & event March 2019, Think Corner Helsinki University
It will be messy

Creativity is a thinking skill and the emotions behind are confusion, curiosity, interest. But the process will be messy.. the teacher abandons control “mindset”. Some will like it, like Tuija biology teacher 60 plus years old she says “ I need to feel curious too about the lessons, feel like I am learning too.” When you abandon control you might feel confused, as the question is “what do you do now as a teacher if not controlling the process of learning”. There is something: to support scientific thinking: you can hold the process for the students (co-regulate the learning), they will need plenty of support with that ( Lonka, 2018). So while there are all these experts & great materials, apps, free curriculum tools for science at hand doing the job, plenty of interesting ready-made lessons teachers can focus & allocate time in facilitating the learning ( use tools for active listening, reflection on the learning and unlearning, keeping the learning visible). 


If you will support the creative process with the integrated curriculum – essential for a 21st-century education, the process starts in oneself, not “out there”. While you as a teacher “take care of oneself” – pay attention to your own emotions, take & make sure you get plenty of breaks (mental breaks including) during the day, you cultivate attention & focus, you build up competencies of the self then you are inspiring (expressing) self-regulation, confidence to students as well. Create a physical space (teachers’ room) and mental space in which you practice this every day. Nature is a very good teacher too so build “going to nature breaks” in your calendar.

Leave them learning
Tuija, biology teacher, learning objectives

During your lessons plan& facilitation of the learning, allow students space & offer tools to reflect on their process of not knowing (yet), holding the process of learning to build up creativity muscle means also tolerating not having instant gratification. Part of the 21st-century transversal competencies is building up metacognition- learning to learn, see oneself as the one learning. This means offering both tasks that can be achieved easily or in shorter-term, but as well tasks that might leave them learning… With you as a facilitator, they will know where they are in the process but not striving on getting the results, you will “leave them learning”, by focusing on the process rather than the outcomes.

Collective learning

“The time of lonely genius is over”. Create a space in which creativity happens at the class level ( cultivate the culture of the class). “We as a living organism learning” as image. Using tools & facilitation mindset in which it is not the success of one child, it is not the idea of one but they are all creating together the need for one to “reclaim”  the success/ the idea has no purpose. As we replace competitiveness with compassion, teaching with creativity will allow you as a teacher to increase WEQ (intelligence of the group). Using tools that will allow all of them to open up to the process, they will need plenty of support with social skills. Creating a context in which students practice active listening & centered listening their human needs will be met: be heard & be able to help others, feel successful ( Deci, Ryan & Martela; Lonka 2018). Using tools & methodology to allow students to self organize, from a very early age. One simple way to start with WeQ is to value the collaboration work by sharing responses over mutual learning, goals & peer support on a daily/weekly basis ( this will create visibility of the “learning community”.

Bother your head

Indifferent of the subjects, use puzzle teaching rather than quiz with right/wrong answers, this will invite students to mimic ( learn through biomimicry) the world around us, which is full of wonders and not right/wrong answers. The 21st-century society of “wicked problems” should not cultivate feelings of being unsafe, insecure but an occasion to use & practice critical thinking & also develop caring about the world around. The opportunity to become one with the problem instead of fixing problems will offer students access to the creative process through compassion.

Let them want more

More and more teachers reflect back on what has changed during blended system, self-directed learning comes on teachers’ discourse as a new teaching competence focus or as a wish “ I wish my students feel happy & relate to the learning”. One thing you can practice is “let them want more”, using creativity as teaching will encourage students to explore learning on themselves. Use tools & methodologies to “let them want more”, means offering in lessons opportunities for students to meet with different hobbies/jobs/explore different skills (maker space culture) so they can test and see where their “interest” might sparkle & and facilitator is ready to “catch that” and offer the opportunity for more practice. This simple tool is part of the skills-based learning curriculum.

Annika Tonts scribing art from Integrated Curriculum Teaching Global skills course , first cohorot with teachers from Europe, May 2018

My guest with this article is art teacher Annika Tonts from Pelgulinna Gymnasium in Tallinn. I had the pleasure to encounter Annika in the Integrated Curriculum – Teaching Global Skills course I offered in Helsinki. Annika is guest teacher in the Coaching STEAM program. You can follow Annika’s work here.

Your own journaling

Questions for your own reflection with this articles ( first I invite you to practice 2-3 min of silance and presence then I invite you to take your booklet and offer yourself 10 min time to reflect:

Q1: How can I invite creativity wih my teaching ( from where would it come naturally/with easiness for me)?

Q2: What kind of routines I can adopt so I can make creativity part of the day to day teaching & planning creativity?

Q3: How can I make space for daily students’ reflection on their own learning collectively? 

Q4: Where is my attention & focus with students’ self-directed learning? 

Q5: How do I take my breaks, mental breaks, how do I go to nature & make sure I am taking my daily “pause” moments ( aka no agenda moments, nothing to fix or make just be & enjoy being)

Q6: Where can I start with my teaching creativity?

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