This is the second part of a three part series for parents and kids around nurturing creativity with Dr. Joanne Foster. Find out why we sometimes struggle with creativity and how we can create an environment that supports creativity.
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Steve [Intro]: 00:00 Hello, and welcome to the parents as learning coaches edition of the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. Parents and caregivers play many different roles, and even sometimes conflicting roles as they support children’s development. The pandemic has shown a light on the importance of parents supporting learners. In this podcast, I’ll share my experiences as a teacher, educator, parent, grandparent, and continuous learner that can support your coaching efforts.
Steve: 00:35 Co-creating a Vibe! – Part 2: Nurturing Creativity Everyday (What Matters Most?) This is the second part of a three part series for parents and kids around nurturing creativity with Dr. Joanne Foster. In part one, Dr. Foster provided an understanding of what creativity is and why it’s important. In this episode, she will explore nurturing creativity. I strongly recommend catching episode one to set the stage for the strategies that are shared in this upcoming podcast. Thanks Dr. Foster for the understanding and explanations that you shared in the first episode. I really especially appreciated the thoughts about effort and energy as a component of creativity. So let’s pick it up and move on. What factors have a bearing on our creative output, whether we’re students at school or parents at home or work or elsewhere?
Joanne: 01:41 Thanks. It’s nice to be back and definitely, I’m glad you’re picking up on this idea of effort and energy. And also perhaps I should mention time and patience because they play into it as well. But there are other factors that have a bearing on children’s creative output, no matter where they might be. And as you know, that might be anywhere from a beach to a lake, to a mountaintop, to a city, to a country fair. So the response to this question is broad based because learning and creativity and the promise of creativity can happen just anywhere. But what you really need to have is desire because as I mentioned in the first podcast, creativity is a choice. You have to have encouragement from other people so that you can see a little bit of progress so that you can know that you’re heading in the right direction.
Joanne: 02:33 It’s important to have flexibility, to be able to move with whatever is happening around you. So that if, for example, you’re
outside and you’re appreciating nature, or using your senses to really get a feel for what’s around you and all of a sudden it starts to pour, it doesn’t mean you have to go in, it just means that you have to look at what’s around you to a different lens and maybe from under an umbrella as well. So you need that desire, you need encouragement, you need flexibility, and you also need knowledge. You have to have some basis to understand what it is that you want to do. So if I wanna make a flying machine, I have to know a little bit about flying and the aerodynamics and what an airplane looks like. If I wanna make a mushroom soup, a creative mushroom soup, I have to know not to put in a poisonous mushroom, basic stuff that you wanna build from. So your knowledge base is also an important and provides a foundation from which to build. So that lens, what it is that you’re seeing and how you see it, but also what it is that you know and how you’re going to build from upon it.
Steve: 03:44 I do a lot of work with questioning and as I was listening to you – those comments you just made, it’s striking me that asking questions is part of building or tapping your creativity.
Joanne: 04:00 Yes. And there are questions you can ask yourself, but there are also questions that the parents can ask children about, what is it that you want to know? What is it that you need to know? What is it that you already know? How can you build upon it creatively and effectively and critically and collaboratively? And by the way, the best types of questions are not necessarily yes and no questions, because if you ask someone the yes and no question, are you creative? Yes, no? You’re gonna get an answer: yes, no. And that’s not very creative. What you really wanna do is ask questions that make people think. So questions such as who, what, where, when, why, and how? Questions that have open ended possible answers, questions that encourage kids to develop and create their own questions as a result of your starting point. So yes, inquiry is hugely important and I think curiosity is hugely important as well. There’s an author by the name of William Arthur Ward who said that curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning. And I think that that’s really a lovely way to put it that by asking questions and choosing to wonder about our world and by really tapping into our creativity through curiosity, we become richer as a result.
Steve: 05:28 A great story is coming to my mind that I read about a a scientist who won the Pulitzer prize and when he got the prize, he said he owed it to his mother. And he said that the reason was that every day when he came home from school, she asked the same question. And her question was, what was the best question you asked at school today? So kind of the reverse of when we’re asking kids what they learned to instead ask what they pondered.
Joanne: 06:00 And I’ll take that one step further – I was at a conference – actually it was for gifted learners and they had a manifesto of 10 different things, 10 different rules for kids to think about in terms of their learning and one of them was to consider the most important thing that they learned each day. And I put up my hand and I said, I don’t necessarily agree with this particular item on the manifesto. And everybody in the room was sort of turning around and going, like, what do you mean agree with that? How can you not agree that it’s important to focus on the most important thing that you learned each day? And I said, why are you limiting it to one? Why is it only one important thing? Why isn’t it, what is the most creative, the most unusual the most important things that you learned each day? So don’t limit yourself, ask questions, find out all you can, and then build as much as you can from there.
Steve: 07:03 So why is it that we sometimes struggle with creativity and you got some suggestions for how we can overcome some of those difficulties we might have?
Joanne: 07:14 I’ll start with about 10 quick reasons why kids or for that matter, adults might struggle with creativity, and I’m just gonna whip through them just to give you a sense of why it’s not always like that light bulb going over the head that creativity does in fact require energy and effort. So the first thing that can sometimes impede creativity is scrutiny. Having someone staring over your shoulders or telling you what to do – that can be a real downer. Rigidity – not having the the flexibility that I mentioned earlier – not having the feel that you can stretch yourself in different directions and try different things, but being confined inside that box can be a bit of a struggle for kids who especially want to take next steps. A third reason why people struggle with creativity is because they’re impatient.
Joanne: 08:05 They don’t have the sense that they have the time that they would like to invest in it, that other people are waiting for them, that they there’s a a limit to what they can do. And so they have to stop and they can’t push themselves to the next level. A fourth reason why people struggle with creativity is a lack of confidence. The fact that they doubt their abilities, they’re uncertain, what’s gonna happen. They’re afraid somebody’s going to comment or put them in a position where they’re going to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed because they’ve come up with this really incredibly crazy idea and not everybody appreciates wackier or zany ideas, right? Another reason why people struggle is because they feel alone or they feel lost, or they feel isolated, and they may feel that they want additional input or help from others.
Joanne: 08:55 And yet, maybe they don’t necessarily know how to ask for it. Fatigue can be a problem too. Being tired can really zap your creative energy. So we need to make sure that kids get enough rest and and also nourishment and whatever else it takes for them to feel healthy and ready to think creatively and be creative. Little or no progress can cause people to be less creative. If you don’t see yourself moving forward, if you don’t have some sense that you’re making a difference in your own thoughts or in what’s going on around you, that can cause you to be less creative. Unfair expectations would be something else. If somebody is expecting you do this, do that, do the other, and you better do a really good job and you better have it done by tomorrow.
Joanne: 09:47 And it better be colorful and it better have something different than what you’ve done before, those kinds of things can really impede creativity. So making sure that there’s some clarity in the expectations and that they’re fair and reachable. And a basic one is not having the revisions you need. Not having the materials, whether it’s equipment supplies, musical instruments, whatever. So that’s just a list of different reasons why kids or adults might struggle with creativity. But I think the most important one and I’ve saved it for the last – you wanna guess? Should I put you on the spot?
Steve: 10:25 Yeah. You got me on the spot.
Joanne: 10:28 Okay good.
Steve: 10:29 Go ahead and give me the last one before I tell you what’s going through my mind.
Joanne: 10:36 Okay. So you gotta think creatively here, but the most important thing in terms of people who struggle with creativity is that they don’t value it.
Joanne: 10:46 They don’t understand the importance of it. They don’t understand the benefits of it. They don’t understand that it can totally, totally change your life. It can change how you look at things, your lens, your perspectives, your attitudes. Not caring about creativity means you’re not going pull it out of your pocket or wherever it is you keep it, in your brain, in wherever. If you care about it, then you’re gonna do something about it. And so people who struggle with creativity may need help understanding the value of it.
Steve: 11:19 Investment.
Joanne: 11:20 Investment. Agency.
Steve: 11:23 Creativity takes work.
Joanne: 11:26 Of course it does. It takes work.
Steve: 11:29 Why would I invest the work if I didn’t believe there was value that would come out of it. So that makes total sense now that you’ve
laid it out for me.
Joanne: 11:40 Exactly. And when we’re talking about work, it doesn’t have to be heavy duty work. You don’t have to put on overalls and you don’t have to grab a hammer or whatever it might be. We’re talking about sitting down and enjoying the process and working through it and thinking and percolating and laughing and brainstorming with others and building on the skill sets that matter whether it’s organization or time management or learning to set goals. Basically challenging yourself and seeing what’s in the environment around you and not only seeing, but smelling and tasting and feeling, and hearing and appreciating – all of that. So, yeah, it’s work, but it’s work in a good sense.
Steve: 12:25 Fair to say that mistakes are part of it?
Joanne: 12:29 Yes. And that’s how we learn. We learn by figuring out what we need to overcome. If we keep doing the same thing again, and again, and again, we’re not gonna make any mistakes, but we’re also not gonna go anywhere.
Steve: 12:42 I have to be open to it not working in order to tap my creativity to end up with what might work.
Joanne: 12:52 Correct. So you want to avoid certain things. I mean, you wanna avoid things that are going to be so, so difficult that you’re going to get turned off of doing it, but you don’t want it so easy either that you’re going to be bored or it’s going be repetitive, or it’s not going to be challenging enough. So you have to find that sweet spot, that, that place in the middle, where you’re going to be able to move ahead comfortably, perhaps with some help, but still feel good about what it is that you’re accomplishing along the way. So that goes back to that idea of having progress and sensing that there’s something good happening.
Steve: 13:29 So it’s sounding like the environment that we’re working in is, well, I’ll say working, learning, playing whatever one of those verbs I want to use, but the environment’s gonna gonna have an impact. So what should we be looking for in our environment?
Joanne: 13:46 I’ll focus on two things. So the first is flexibility. Remember I talked about going out into nature and it can be sunny, it can be a windstorm, it could be day, it could be night, it could be whenever. So that flexibility of taking what’s around you and rolling with it a little bit. How do I need to change in order to be able to interact with that environment and make it meaningful for me? What guidance might I need? What reinforcement might I need? What knowledge might I need in order to make the most of that environment that I’m experiencing at any particular time? So I think in the last segment of the podcast, I talked about getting out there and appreciating the stars. So let’s take it to the next step and let’s look at some sunrises or sunsets.
Joanne: 14:41 How does that environment change from one day to the next day? Why is the sun sometimes red and why is it it sometimes a fiery pink sky and other times it’s just a Sapphire blue. What is it that I need to know, what is it that I need to learn in order to be able to understand my environment and rule with the flexibility that everything is changing all the time. I’m changing as a person, the people I meet will be changing from day to day, the environment will be changing from day to day, everything’s in flux. So that flexibility is really an important part of understanding your environment and benefiting creatively from it. The second piece of the environment that really matters has to do with it being respectful.
Joanne: 15:35 Respectful of you as a learne and you also being respectful of other people who are in your environment. So what their choices and preferences are, what their needs are, what their priorities might be. So for example, one child in your group, and again, I’m talking, for kids here, one kid might love duct tape, and somebody else might like boxes and baskets, and somebody else might like ducks and somebody else might be really enamored with trucks and vehicles and things that move and sports might be the passion of somebody else. What do they wanna know about these things? What are the history of these things? How are they used? What sort of artistic renderings can they do? What sort of stories do they know about these things? How can you share, how can you draw? How can you write, how can you sing? How can you be respectful of other people’s creative interests and use those to ignite your own and share? So flexibility is really important in an environment and respect for what’s around you and for what other people are enjoying and doing. Those create inviting and exciting kinds of environments and that’s what we want for all kids.
Steve: 16:53 Wow. You just turned on my creative light bulb. The two words there are so powerful of flexible and respectful. And I can tell you, I’m going to be doing some writing and podcasts following up from having listened to you on those two words. Just today, I started working on a piece for teachers with the start of the school year and what’s the message they want students to get about the time that they’re going to be spending with the teacher. And boy, I can’t think of any more powerful message for kids to get at the start of the year that I’m gonna be working with a teacher who’s who’s flexible and respectful. And for us to have homes that are flexible and respectful and communities, and you really lay out the key words there for how we are in community with each other.
Joanne: 17:54 I’m glad you say that. And I just wanna add a third word, and I think that it comes of being flexible and respectful, and that is to be kind. Because if we’re being kind, then we’re keeping in mind that we need to have respect for other people’s ideas and viewpoints, and be flexible to accept them and understand them and enable them to be creative and to learn. I mean, we’re all in this together, right? So whether it’s a classroom, whether it’s a family environment, whether it’s a community, flexibility and and respect and kindness.
Steve: 18:34 It’s almost like kind is the is the action that comes out of it. So if I’m flexible and respectful, the actions I’m gonna take are gonna be kind.
Joanne: 18:44 It’s true. I think also we have to be careful not to use buzzwords in ways that we take them loosely or take them for granted or just say, everybody let’s be kind. You see people with posters all over the place that say “be kind.” I think we have to take the time to understand what underlies it. It doesn’t just happen. It has to happen because people are thoughtful about it.
Steve: 19:12 Are there are there other pieces you’d wanna label for how parents and kids can encourage each other’s creativity?
Joanne: 19:19 Sure. So I’m gonna give you three points here. And I hope that kids will think about these three points very carefully, because I don’t say them lightly. I’m saying them with great reverence. The first has to do with willingness. If you want to be creative, you have to be willing to thik, and to explore in new and unexpected ways to question and to not necessarily accept the here and now exactly as it is, but to be playful, to be curious, to take the time to develop new ideas. So willingness is the first key. The second key is to look for different outlets, whether it’s through the arts, whether it’s through music, writing, dance, physical activities, gymnastics, technology, whatever it might be, look for those different outlets and ways to express your creativity and grab at them, seize them.
Joanne: 20:21 Maybe it’s in the bathtub, maybe it’s while you’re sitting in the back seat of the car. Get off the sofa, take away the device that you might be looking at – the iPad or whatever, appreciate what’s around you, look for outlets and ways to express your creativity. So willingness, looking for outlets, and then finally strengthening your connections with other people. That’s a huge way to encourage and support one another’s creativity, because creativity often emerges from collaborating and from problem solving with other people. So any kind of network of support that you might be able to pull together can enhance your self expression and your creativity. So you might wanna, for example, consider reading clubs or library programs or community center activities. There are lots of online options, which of course need certain amount of supervision, but they’re out there. Mentorships, volunteering, just finding ways to connect with like-minded others and even people who are not so like-minded because then you see different perspectives that you might not necessarily have thought of. So willingness, looking for outlets and strengthening connections. Those are my three keys for today.
Steve: 21:36 As I was listening there that diversity was running through my head. So the difference of the people that you get a chance to interact with can expand your creativity.
Joanne: 21:50 Exactly. I’m interacting with you, and hopefully this will get out there and expand other people’s creativity. You like to do podcasts, I like to write. Somebody else likes to sing a song. The little nine year old girl I was talking about the other day likes to do upside down flips. Everybody’s creativity is generated in a different ways and I think that we need to be respectful and flexible and just embrace and celebrate and be as creative as we can be every day. Any day that ends in “y” is a good day to be creative.
Joanne: 22:35 Sure. I’m gonna talk about how we can strengthen creativity even more – some specific strategies, and I’ll give some final takeaways as well.
Steve: 22:45 Thanks. And reminder to folks of the easiest way to find you and follow up and connect with you.
Joanne: 22:52 Sure. My website is joannefoster.ca and there’s a very big resource page filled with articles and information and also information
about my seven books. And I do write about creativity within those books in different ways shapes and forms. So I welcome anybody to have a look at that at my column at the creativity post, and certainly to contact me as well. There’s a contact page where they can reach out and get in touch with me directly if they wanna chat, if they wanna a presentation, if they just wanna know more. joannefoster.ca.
Steve: 23:29 Thank you. We’ll be sure to to post that in the lead-in to the podcast. Thanks so much for for expanding expanding my thinking and
turning on the light bulbs for me.
Joanne: 23:41 My pleasure.
Steve: 23:42 Have a great day.
Joanne: 23:43 You too.
Steve: 23:46 Thank you for listening. You can subscribe to Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud on iTunes and Podbean. And please remember to rate and review us on iTunes. I also want to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on Twitter @stevebarkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.