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Teachers/Community: Overcoming Creative Crisis

As I read more of The Artist's Way, I am struck that being an "artist" is embedded in every identity we hold. In school, we talk about the "art" of teaching. The art of teaching is in the fluidity and fluency we bring to our craft. It is about addressing learning needs and gaps in making small adjustments every class period. It is taking the temperature of the classroom and allowing the students to have input on the day's agenda and pace. It is about leading the students on a journey of learning that meets their needs and moves toward a specific learning goal. It isn't prescribed, it is creative. It is ART.

There is an art to everything we do. After all, art is expression of a skill or imagination. I believe there is an art to grocery shopping, to packing for a vacation, to parenting, to cooking. Art, and by extension the artist, is about employing creativity to the task at hand. Just think about the ways we curate our identity. It is a creative endeavor, including those who do not want to look curated. We may prioritize different places to be creative: online, in person, in fashion, in work, in painting, in writing, in skateboarding.

Critique of art is the tension we may fall prey to. Critics abound. I remember having the thought that Jackson Pollack was not an artist; he threw paint on the canvas and got lucky. We hold limiting beliefs about our ability to be artists: I can't draw, paint, sketch. I am not an artist, artists are drunk, loners, irresponsible, broke. I tried to throw paint at the canvas and make a Pollack painting. I didn't... I made a Nell Dailey. By doing the creative act, I was an artist.

Consider the following questions and notice your reaction, notice your thoughts: What are the attributes you apply to artists? What attributes make you or restrict you from the artist title? Are these limiting beliefs going to stop you from being the creative person you want to be? Are you willing to try and overcome these beliefs and call yourself an artist?

To overcome some of these limiting beliefs, I want to offer two suggestions.

  • Normalize making mistakes. I want to dig into this in greater detail in the context of schools, but for now, let's talk about the big picture. Mistakes are necessary for growth. Mistakes identify a possible point of growth. In your head, it might sound like this - "Hmmm, I just made a mistake. I can choose to do it differently/with improved skills next time." Right, that is the ideal way to handle a mistake. I have go through the anxiety/sweat stage and then the shame/blame game first. Then I am ready to rationalize the mistake I have made.

  • Give yourself artist affirmations. You cannot tame the outer critics as it is out of your control, but you can tame your inner critic. For the next few days, write down the negative blurts that you say about yourself. For each one dig into where it comes from. It may be helpful to identify the experience that has given you this false belief, or whose voice is it? Once you are able to name it, then you tame it. After this process, you can create affirmations that debunk the negative belief. The more often you tell yourself the affirmation, the sooner you will believe it.

Not easy work, is it? Consider what is on the other side of this work? For me, I am excited to be able to bounce back from making a mistake. To demonstrate resiliency. If I can bounce back, then I can reframe. If I stay in the shame/blame game, I am useless to myself and others. My affirmation: I, Nell, face discomfort with courage! I also have this one: I, Nell, am smart enough to figure this out.

I am definitely a work in progress in taming my inner critic. This topic will return! Thank you for getting started with me.

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From our All-School Assembly, February 28, 2024 Written by Nell Dailey “On this rainy day in February, I want to share a story with you. So sit back, put your phones away, and give me your attention.


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