Fostering Creativity: The Preschool Teacher

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    Summary

    This lesson highlights the significance of being a creative preschool teacher and provides insights on how to promote creativity in your workplace when engaging with children, families, and colleagues. A key learning point is the importance of self-reflection and collaborative, supportive relationships.

    Objectives
    • Reflect on what it means to be a creative preschool teacher.
    • Come up with ideas to engage families in promoting children's creativity.
    • Brainstorm on how to creatively engage with children, coworkers, and families.

    Learn

    Learn
    "If you hear a voice within you say, 'You cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and the voice will be silenced." - Vincent Van Gogh

    Know

    How do you nurture and sustain creativity in your personal life? Are there rituals or activities you engage in that make you feel more connected to your creative self? Are there individuals who inspire you to be creative? What are some things that spark your creativity?

    How about your professional life? What elements of your work environment make you feel creative? Is it freedom to plan experiences and use materials? Is it supportive coworkers and supervisors? Is it guidance and constructive feedback? Is it sharing concerns, ideas, and brainstorming solutions when situations arise? Is it relationships with children and families?

    Educational psychology professor James Kaufman has identified eight elements of the work environment that cultivate creativity. In the Explore section of this lesson, you will have an opportunity to reflect on these elements as they relate to your personal experiences in preschool.

    8 Aspects to Cultivate Creativity

    Adequate freedomAdults need the ability to make personal and professional choices. Though choices can sometimes seem limited, are there some situations with which you can make choices about what goes on in your early care and learning setting? For example, how about choosing materials, or organizing experiences based on the interests of the infants and toddlers in your care?
    Challenging workWorking with infants and toddlers can sometimes be challenging. As you have been reading in this course, however, challenges are often opportunities for us to come up with creative solutions to problems. Welcome challenges as ways to learn more and strengthen your professional skills.
    Appropriate resourcesWe all need tools and resources to do our jobs. Appropriate resources (like planning tools, resource libraries, classroom supplies, and time for planning, reflection, and support) are prerequisites for feeling creative. It is important that you have the tools you need to do your job.
    A supportive supervisorWe can all identify individuals in our lives who served as mentors, who have inspired us to achieve great things, or who have provided guidance and support when we faced challenges or difficulties. It is important that you have opportunities to regularly meet with your supervisor to discuss what goes on in your classroom and to brainstorm, if necessary, solutions to problems. These exchanges are vital to your professional development and allow you to learn and grow.
    Diverse and communicative coworkersOne of the great benefits of being a member of a team of individuals at work is that you get to know people who engage in similar professional activities with you, who may have similar interests with you, and who may be dealing with similar issues, concerns or challenges in the workplace. Getting to know your colleagues enables you to build connections and friendships that will help you feel motivated and stronger. You can inspire others and be inspired by your colleagues!
    RecognitionPositive, creative ideas and efforts should be recognized. In the same way your supervisors acknowledge good efforts and ideas, you can recognize colleagues or supervisors who help inspire and lead your team to success.
    A sense of cooperationCreative spaces are collaborative spaces. People should feel safe to share ideas — even ideas that they don’t think will work. Team members can support one another and their creative ideas.
    An organization that supports creativityYou are not alone in the quest to cultivate creativity. A truly creative workplace operates coherently at every level. Your entire team should prioritize and recognize creativity.

    What does it Mean to be a Creative Preschool Teacher?

    What are some of your own views about being a creative preschool teacher? Pause for a few moments to think about this.

    As you have read in this course, creativity is a crucial part of the human experience; it helps us rise to challenges, overcome obstacles, and create opportunities. Creativity is important because it demonstrates openness to new experiences. These experiences include having a good imagination, experiencing and valuing feelings, trying new things based on individual interests, and having a curious mindset (Kaufman, 2009).

    In Lesson One, you had an opportunity to explore some of your own views on creativity. This lesson extends on this exploration by encouraging you to think about creativity in your workplace and ask yourself what it means to be a creative preschool teacher.

    In your work in a preschool program, you are responsible for creating meaningful experiences that incorporate creativity throughout the day. Being a creative teacher can be expressed in a number of different ways. Here are some ideas of how to express creativity:

    • Using everyday materials that might seem of no use to spark creative work in your classroom
    • Dealing with space constraints to create supportive learning environments for you and the children in your classroom
    • Following your curiosity
    • Allowing yourself to make mistakes
    • Trying out new things
    • Being willing to accept new or different perspectives
    • Embracing diversity

    See

    Watch the following video to hear a preschool teacher reflect on how her own creative interests influenced some of her classroom activities, and why it is important to value creativity when working with preschool children.

    Being a Creative Preschool Teacher

    Listen as a preschool teacher talks about bringing some of her own creative interests in the classroom.

    Do

    Cultivating and Nurturing Creativity as a Preschool Teacher

    Creativity helps you become part of a workplace community that feels welcoming, energetic, and nurturing. It helps you engage children, families, and colleagues in a range of meaningful experiences. Consider the following when engaging with children, families, and colleagues in your program.

    Engaging with children:

    • Bring your own creative interests, questions, and experiences to your classroom and share them with children during center time, circle time, outside time, field trips, or any other time you think is appropriate.
    • Demonstrate interest and excitement when working with children. Inspire children to be curious and creative by demonstrating these attributes yourself!
    • Use children’s backgrounds, experiences, and interests as inspiration for ideas about creative experiences in your classroom.
    • Cultivate a climate of inquiry and love for learning in your classroom. You do not always need to have the answers! Invite children to discover answers to fascinating questions or problems with you.
    • Display children’s three-dimensional constructions, creations and artwork. You can use simple frames to display artwork at children’s eye level or hang artwork throughout your classroom environment using rope, ribbon and clothes- pins. Seeing their artwork displayed encourages and inspires children to be creative and gives them a sense of pride for their work.
    • Demonstrate respect for children’s values and opinions. Your example will set the tone for how children view themselves and for how they treat each other.

    Engaging with families:

    • Families can be your program’s window into culturally responsive experiences. Invite families to share art, music, food and celebrations that are meaningful to them.
    • Invite family members to come to your classroom and share with children some of their own creative endeavors.
    • Invite families to observe and participate in some of your creative activities.
    • Ask families to donate everyday household items they don’t need to your program to support the creative experiences of children.
    • Encourage families to nurture exploration and creativity at home by extending some of your classroom and school experiences.

    Engaging with colleagues:

    • Share things about your interests and talents with colleagues during staff meetings, lunch breaks or in-service days, and explain how these interests drive some of the experiences you create for children in your classroom. Get to know the people who you work with on a personal level.
    • Exchange ideas about experiences that foster creativity with colleagues. Invite a colleague to come to your room, observe some of your activities and give you feedback. Offer to do the same for your colleagues.
    • Ask a coach, trainer, or supervisor to come and observe your classroom so they can offer feedback about your use of creative experiences and materials.
    • Acknowledge colleagues who are doing great things, who offer you guidance and constructive feedback, and who inspire you to strive for excellence and creativity.

     

    Explore

    Explore

    What aspects of your work environment foster your creativity? In the Learn section of this lesson you were introduced to eight elements of the work environment that have been identified to cultivate creativity (Kaufman, 2009). In this section, you will have an opportunity to reflect on how some of these elements foster your own creativity at your workplace.

    Download and print the Creativity in My Work Environment handout and brainstorm about how these elements relate to your personal experiences when it comes to your own work environment.

    Exercises & Resources

    Apply

    Apply

    In this section, there are two attachments with sample letters you can send to children’s families with information about creative experiences at school and home. As you read these letters, think about what you share with families of children in your care about creative experiences in preschool.

    Exercises & Resources

    Demonstrate

    Demonstrate
    Assessment

    Q1

    Which of the following supports you in your endeavor to be a creative preschool teacher?

    Q2

    True or false? Being a creative preschool teacher sometimes means that you will make mistakes.

    Q3

    You and your co-worker, Deanna, are planning next week’s circle time. She mentions that you just have 10 minutes for circle time and she believes that time would be best spent working on alphabet recognition. What do you say to her?

    References & Resources

    Beghetto, R. A., & Kaufman, J. C. (Eds.). (2010). Nurturing Creativity in the Classroom. New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Kaufman, J. C. (Ed.). (2009). Creativity 101. New York: Springer Publishing Company.

    Robinson, Ken (2009). The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. New York: Penguin Group.

    Schickeadanz, J. A., Hansen, K., & Forsyth, P. D. (2000). Understanding Children. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company.

    Trawick-Smith, J. W. (2014). Early Childhood Development: A Multicultural Perspective, (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc.

    Zevin, J. (2013). Creative Teaching for All: In the box, Out of the box, and off the walls. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield.