My 8-year-old is unlike any child I’ve ever met. I will admit- I say that about all my children, but I’d like to tell you about my middle child today. He is uniquely creative, distinctively enthusiastic, and unusually inventive. He sees the world in ways I could only dream of. I really don’t know if his unique view of the world is a result him having high-functioning autism or simply a reflection of who he actually is—but either way, he fills my life with vibrant colors.
We recently had a conversation about his experience as a second grader. School has been a rollercoaster for him and the teachers have used all kinds of strategies to help him succeed. His meticulous nature and desire to embellish even the most mundane of assignments means that he takes a long time to finish his work. Enter—the assignment timer.
One day, when talking to him about this new timer, he commented that “He didn’t mind using the timer, but it was getting in the way of his artwork.” His math artwork. This left me at a crossroads. Do I talk to him about the importance of timely math work or do I foster his creativity? What in tarnation (his words not mine)? How did we get to the point where this is even a choice?
I’d bet that most teachers, when asked, would wholeheartedly agree with the importance of fostering students’ innate talents. And yet, we have a system that makes doing so incredibly difficult. I understand the need for measurement. It is truly difficult to chart a plan for improvement without knowing where we are. That said, I often worry that with the growing emphasis on measurable performance, we unknowingly sacrifice the less obvious skills such as creativity, empathy, and resilience. In fact, the older we get, the more regimented our education seems to become. I am dreading the day that my middle schooler comes home with homework that feels like work. We get enough of that as adults.
So… What is to be done? Thankfully my son’s teacher modified his assignment length and used the option for art embellishments as reward for completed work. She was a lucky find.
Surely, we can use our creativity to save our creativity. I’d love to hear your thoughts…