Today, a group of middle-school-aged students was given a pencil, a blank sheet of paper, and two minutes to complete the task of sketching the person sitting next to them. Almost immediately, I heard sighs of frustration and embarrassed apologies. “This is terrible, I know. I’m very sorry.”
I took interest in their angst and had to ask when this happened. When did they lose the creative, innovative, think-out-of-the-box flair? When did they begin to shave away their edges and seek the safety of middle ground?
I have a three-year-old goddaughter who delights in her creations. Asked to draw a picture of a tree or her family or a kitten, she grabs a crayon and dives into her imagination with her whole heart. “I made you this picture of love. Isn’t it pretty?” And, indeed it is.
Kids need to live in a world where they are free to explore their hearts and minds and spirits in creative ways. They need to trust that their inner voice will be met with compassion and encouragement. Banged up by criticism and comparison, young people lose confidence and respect for the power and authenticity of their unique voice.
We can help children stay connected to their creative intelligence by recognizing and revealing and reenforcing what is unique in them. We can look beyond what is seen or heard to notice their special view of things. We can reach for the real ideas behind their creation and point out to them their gifts and graces that they may otherwise miss. We must share with them how they add to the common good in this world.
CGR Board member and Middle School English teacher