As I sit at my dining room table, writing, I am looking at a poster I have framed on my wall. ‘To Live a Creative Life We Must Lose our Fear of Being Wrong.’
These words resonate very deeply with me. In fact, I framed and hung this poster up to remind me of this daily. I will remember these words so that I don’t edit myself too much, take too much care on how I come across, or aim to be ‘perfect’.
This is how I try to hold the creative space for children as they playfully explore. A place where they can let go, embrace mistakes, don’t edit too much so they can enter into a much deeper discovery process.
This has really got me thinking about our role as educators in this process. When I think of the words of the poster, I am struck by how, in adults, this may be somewhat of a conscious choice. We make the decision to let go and be OK with process. However, for children it may not be so simple.
Celebrate Learning, Not Just Knowing
We as educators play an enormous role in our ability to ensure that children lose their fear of being wrong. If we set up our learning environments to embrace only the ‘right’ answer and reward specific outcomes, children learn that ‘right’ is what is wanted. They learn to stay safe and only put up their hand if they are sure they have the correct answer. These children draw only what they know how to draw well. And, they volunteer to participate in activities they know they are already good at.
My hope is that we as educators build nourishing environments for children in which discovery is embraced. Children raise their hands to share ideas and offer input, not just to be ‘right’. This allows them the freedom to fall in love with the learning and the process, rather than only with the result.
Sometimes when I go into classes to work with teachers, I see a class where every child has their hand up, eager to share. I always know that something special has been created by that teacher. They have created a space where the children do not feel stupid for sharing an answer that is different or way out there. These classes excite me. They remind me of the important role we play in the discovery process of the young people we work with.
‘How Many Mistakes Can I Make Today?’
Recently, the Dandelion Dance™ Performance Company, mostly brand new to dance, was working with the incredible dance icon, Margie Gillis. They were a bit nervous at first, knowing that she had received the Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award from the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award Foundation, as well as numerous other awards.
She embraced them with full enthusiasm during our one day workshop. One of the things she said during that workshop resonated very deeply with all of us. We have repeated it often throughout the year. Margie said she wakes up every day and asks, “How many mistakes can I make today?” We all laughed at this. But it also stirred us, relaxed us and shifted our feelings about ‘mistakes’.
I thought that perhaps she had just said this to help our creative juices flow and to gently awaken these young womens’ creative freedom. Perhaps these words were part of her skilled embrace in knowing, as an educator, how to support their creative development.
Later that summer, Margie lent me her home in Montreal when she was away and I was there studying. As I quietly walked around her home on my own, I saw beside her bed, hand written and taped to the wall on loose leaf paper, the words, ‘How many mistakes can I make today?”
I knew in that moment that they were not just words she shared to help my students dive into their creativity. She truly did live by those words and was sharing this wisdom with us. She gave us the gift of seeing how she lives as an artist.
We need, as educators, to share these moments with our students and allow them into the creative spaces. We need to let them see and hear how we can live in the unknown and embrace discovery. Margie knows this, and, I am thankful for her knowing how important it was to share this with us.