The Head's Tales - Exercising a Creative Mindset!

Cathy ThornicroftNew Year’s allows us to reflect on the past, assess the present, and make plans for the future. It is also a time when we begin to dream about new possibilities and sometimes lament over the "what if..." moments of our lives. At such a reflective time, I cannot think of a better goal than for us to let our creativity explode and for each of us to be willing to explore ideas for future execution – unencumbered by past failures, perceived limitations, or thoughts of "this is crazy, not practical, or impossible!"

As we get older, the busyness and the complexity of life responsibilities often impedes our ability to be curious, to keep learning, to imagine the impossible, and to be open to the joys of spontaneity. If we are going to change our world (whether in the singular or more expansive definition), then we need to recapture the creative process and rekindle the spirt of exploration – hence, we need to examine our childhood memories and focus on those moments of bliss, wonderment, and surprise when the outcomes were not prescribed or known and our joy for learning was uninhibited.

Creative thinking is often transformative and usually challenges our current thinking, explores possibilities, dreams bold ideas, and builds connections to other ideas or disciplines. We need to nurture our ability to be creative, a skill that can be mastered if we invest the time to learn how.

Creativity does not rely on luck or timely opportunity (although both are most helpful in implementing a great idea!), but rather it depends on the ability to follow through and deliver something new. This requires commitment, hard work, and determination as much as natural talent. Gifted musicians or artists, for example, are required to spend countless hours honing their talents as well as putting their unique stamp on their artistic pursuits before they are revered or considered an expert in their chosen fields. Both freedom (the ability to be curious and to dream of new ideas) and structure (a defined and disciplined process of practice and execution) are required. Freedom without structure is just chaos and great ideas will never come to fruition without action.

One of the things we try to do at SMS is to design favourable conditions that support the creative process. These conditions include:

  • The space and time to explore (this nurtures curiosity)
  • The opportunity to experience both failure and success (this builds resiliency)
  • The time to allow ideas to grow and mature with constructive feedback (this builds confidence and a stronger inner voice)
  • The chance to build connections with people who have experience, knowledge, alternative perspectives, and distinctive skill sets (this challenges thinking, encourages new ideas, and builds interdependence as well as strong collaboration skills)

From our youngest learners to our most senior students, we try to create an environment that welcomes curiosity, nurtures independent thought, provides access to a variety of sources (the Internet, community leaders, staff expertise, and many others) for information and idea generation, and finally provides a place that sees the learning journey (not just the final designation/achievement) as the most significant contributor to someone’s success story. Most people will tell you that a parent is a child’s first and most influential teacher. I challenge you to reignite your creative spirit and spend more time dreaming about "what if" and sharing these thoughts with your children. In exchange, I suspect we will find that we can also learn from our children and their creative minds. My personal goal is to approach the New Year with a creative mindset, lots of hope, and new purpose. Welcome to 2016 and all that it has to offer!

"We’d achieve more if we chase the dream instead of the competition."
- Simon Sinek. Start With Why

"There’s probably no better example of the throttling of creativity than the difference between what we observe in a kindergarten classroom and what we observe in a high school classroom...Take a room full of five-year-olds and you will see creativity in all its forms positively flowing around the room. A decade later you will see these same children passively sitting at their desks, half asleep or trying to decipher what will be on the next test."
- Madeline Levine. Teach Your Children Well


  • Let the Elephants Run. David Usher. 2015
  • Creative Schools. Ken Robinson. 2015
  • The Innovator’s Mindset. George Couros. 2015

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