Doing, Not Reading, Leads to Change

Each summer a new list of “must read” books crops up.

And, I must admit, I go through them checking to see what’s been added to the list. What should I add to my “Reading List” that continues to grow at a rate only slightly slower than my 16-year-old son.

About a year ago, I noticed that despite all the reading I was doing and had done, many things were pretty much unchanged. Sure, there were slight differences. I felt smarter and more capable, especially during Twitter chats and evening parties where I could offer a book suggestion for many topics.

But, still not the significant change I had expected. I mean, wasn’t something supposed to change? Isn’t that what the whole 5 hour rule is all about? What was I missing?

It was another great “AHA” moment! These people read in order to DO!

Doing Leads to Change!

See, in order for change to happen, you have to do.

Instead of consuming more, I had to create more.

Instead of planning more, I had to execute more.

Routines aren’t any good if all you do is write them out.

You need to set the alarm for5 AM and then get out of bed!

You need to develop a fitness plan and then execute it.

You need to organize an eating routine and then follow it.

In order to write better, well, you have to write.

I mean, really, look at what it did for my reading!

Doing to be Creative

So for the last year, I’ve been doing more, consuming less. I write more blog posts and journal more.

I develop routines that I don’t need to write down every day – they’re routines!

I was spending so much time looking for that “perfect” way to track time and workout and … I was spending more time consuming and not near enough time on doing.

George Couros, in The Innovators Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity, says

What you can do is create the conditions where change is more likely to happen.

To create these conditions, one has to do something. It is in the act of doing that something is created. But to do this, you have to begin to find your own voice.

Todd Henry, the author of Louder Than Words: Harness the Power of Your Authentic Voice, says

When you are pouring yourself into your work and bringing your unique perspective and skills to the table, then you are adding value that only you are capable of contributing.

As a teacher, this is so important. It is the act of creating, of bringing your unique voice to the classroom, that great things will happen. It may take time for you to find that voice, but until you spend more time creating and less time consuming, the voice will be lost, covered over by layers of other voices, one’s you’ve read.

What are your consumption habits? Do they keep you from being creative and doing more?

Are you spending time learning about being more creative or are you doing more to be more creative?

Are you always looking and reading about ways to find “balance” or are you making decisions and doing things to thrive?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas about this topic. Leave me a comment or send me a note on Twitter at @kwhobbes.

Until next Wednesday, seek what is vital, focus on the important; find your own creative voice.

Creative Habits

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Habits – they help us to get through the day. We develop them over time. Many of them are helpful but there are some which can be damaging.

We become so use to them, we don’t even notice how much they influence what we do or affect the choices we make.

Until we do something like move.

Moving Habits

Our family has moved a number of times – 10 I believe but I might have missed one or two somewhere. When you move, you briefly become aware of your habits although you usually don’t see them as habits.

  • Why are kitchen utensils in THAT drawer?

  • Where is the large roaster?

  • Has anyone seen the shampoo?

All these little things that we use each day are in specific places for a purpose – they help us to go about doing various tasks and getting on with our day without having to pause to wonder where we put your socks this week.

It’s like so many of the things we do. We tend to take the same route to work each day. It’s easier for us to navigate. Ever notice how you feel when you have to make a detour because of road construction? Does it mess things up? Do you talk about it when you get to your destination? Would you discuss your drive if it was just routine?

 Routines and habits are necessary for us. They help us to navigate through each day without becoming exhausted from decision-making.

But (you knew that was coming)

these routines and daily habits can eventually lead us to be less creative. As we go through each day, our habits often have us doing things before we really know we’re doing them – turn right at the lights, turn left two lights later – Did you notice the new sign? Was anyone sitting at the outdoor patio? (If it was winter you might notice!)

The routines and habits do serve a purpose as they help us to focus on areas of greater need and not become overwhelmed figuring out where we put the cereal. It’s also why sometimes solving problems is more difficult or coming up with ideas is strenuous, especially if we are in a routine-structured environment such as a school.

What if we want to be a bit more creative?

Kafka Effect

Franz Kafka  was a German-Language writer whose stories would take unexpected turns and twists that seemed to make little sense.

His work, which fuses elements of realism and the fantastic,[3] typically features isolated protagonists faced by bizarre or surrealistic predicaments and incomprehensible social-bureaucratic powers, and has been interpreted as exploring themes of alienation, existential anxiety, guilt, and absurdity.

The Kafka Effect, named after his writing, describes how a person’s creativity seems to increased after something in a person’s life happens which doesn’t seem to make sense such as a spouse leaving, a major move, or another such event. Nick Tasler in The Kafka Effect describes how scientists have discovered that people’s creativity seems to increase  when things don’t seem to make sense.

  •  In a series of correlational studies and experiments, Heintzelman and King found that when people believed their lives made sense, they let their intuitionguide their actions. But during times when they didn’t feel life was as meaningful, their brains shifted gears. “Before a trauma,” Heintzelman and King write, “a person was likely on auto-pilot, relying on intuitive processing. However, after a traumatic event, effortful processing may be crucial to making or reinstating meaning.”

This change in the normal creates dissonance. We aren’t sure what we’re suppose to do and our brain begins to look for patterns.

It works like this: When we detect something that doesn’t make sense—when the spouse we rely on to be our rock suddenly starts flaking out, or the neighbor in the Kafka story acts like a horse for no discernible reason—a cluster of brain functions called the salience network immediately activates a powerful set of cognitive skills that go to work finding other meaningful patterns around us. Once it starts, your brain won’t stop looking until it finds something to fill the void in meaning.

According to Tasler, such events create dissonance which creates a “seed incident”.

A seed incident is what stimulates people to explore new ideas because something happened which the same old stories we tell ourselves couldn’t quite explain. The seed incident sends us on a journey of discovery. What we end up finding on that journey is another story.

This seed incident introduces a change to our habits and routines which then opens us up to new ideas or ways of seeing things. These events can can lead us to see things in new ways which allow us to solve a problem unrelated to the event being experienced.
But no one is waiting for a major life-changing event to happen just to be a bit more creative.

Tasler suggests that this isn’t necessary. Instead, we can do things in our daily lives that help us to create dissonance that can lead to creativity. He suggests such things as taking a different route, going for a walk in a different part of the city, meeting with people in a new location or trying something you haven’t tried before can all open us up to new ideas.

Schools are Built Around Routines

Schools and classrooms rely on routines to help organize the people who are there. This isn’t a bad thing. Routine is comforting and helps us to be able to focus more on the non-routine things. Any teacher will tell you that disruptions in routine can really affect students and their ability to focus and concentrate.
However, the routines don’t always lend themselves to students being creative. So how can this be changed? How can we help students be more creative?

Tasler suggest that it’s in the messiness that creativity take shape.

researchers like Kaufmann make a compelling case that it’s right there in that messy, scary period of search and discovery that many of our most important innovations—our legacy-leaving creations—begin taking shape.

Classrooms of Creativity

Re-image the classroom as a place of creativity. There is a time for sitting and working deeply which is an important skill. However, by also allowing for flexiblity in seating and the design of the classroom, students can move out of the regular routine.
Take new approaches.

  • Go for a walk before settling in to do learning tasks.
  • Take journeys around the school or the school yard but not in the usual ways.
  • Have everyone draw pictures with their non-dominant hand and share them and discuss the process with another student.
  • Write across the page from right to left.

There are any number of ways to break away from the regular habits creating a little dissonance which may lead to a bit of creativity. It may not but, by building in these ‘seed incidents’, the normal routines are slightly disrupted which opens things up to possibility. Besides, it’s fun and who doesn’t want to have a bit more fun!

I wonder….

How do you already break the regular routine(s) to allow for creativity?
Have you every experienced something like the Kafka Effect?
What are ways you help develop creativity in students within the classroom?

I’d love to hear your ideas and insights.

Welcome to Teacher Creative

Welcome to Teacher Creative

This is the beginning of a great adventure. My hope is that this site will develop as an exploration of the Teacher Creative; helping educators develop their own unique voice.

What is Teacher Creative?

The inspiration for this comes from a few different sources the most notably being Todd Henry’s The Accidental Creative. Todd’s work focuses on helping people be creative. As he states “We teach people and teams how to be prolific, brilliant, & healthy”.

My goal is to help teachers see the creative within themselves and unleash their brilliance in the work they do with others.

Teachers as Creatives

I believe teachers are some of the most creative people around. They come up with amazing lessons, ideas for meeting the needs of students, work with other teachers to help create and sustain cultures of learning and exploration, and so much more. Often, however, they don’t have the time to really think about how creative they are or how they might unleash greater creativity in themselves and their students because of the demands on their time and resources.

As an educator I didn’t think of myself as creative. I had bought into the whole idea of a teacher as just someone who works with kids. Although I often had great ideas, I didn’t know how to implement or grow those ideas into practices within the classroom.  I wasn’t aware of how my own habits and frames of thinking were holding me back from being the teacher I knew I could be. This happened again when I became an administrator. I could see there were many possibilities but didn’t have the time, skills, or knowledge to bring those ideas to fruition. Although I learned a great deal, I was often frustrated because I knew I could do so much more if I just had the tools and time. Over time, I have come to understand that I was spending all my time building someone else’s version of me as teacher instead of developing my own voice and using my strengths to become better as a teacher.

It Takes Effort

In a world filled with ‘Listicals’ – a concept I borrow from Todd Henry, teachers have become inundated with lists of How To’s and What For’s. Add to this the constant barrage of “quotables” found on social media, which sound great but have little substance, and teachers are being overwhelmed with what others think they should do and what others think it means to teach.

You can’t argue with “All students matter” or “Do what’s best for students” but how do teachers and administrators get beyond the quotable? What does it mean to live “All students matter” or “Do what’s best for students”? What does it mean in your classroom? In your school? In your community?

More and more teachers are being told to be creative but then told how to be creative according to someone else’s ideas. Worse yet, they don’t value their own ideas but instead are directed to this list or that list, this book or that book with an outline or steps of what someone believes good teachers do. Their periphery vision leads them from one thing to another but they don’t focus on developing their own unique voice as a teacher. Todd Henry describes this a ‘peripheral paralysis‘ – unable to make progress because you are constantly drawn from one thing to another, comparing what you do to what they do.

Develop Your Voice

We’ve all read somewhere the quotes about you’re either building your dream or you’re building someone else’s. There are many people who will sell you their idea of education and teaching. Many sound great and get you excited but eventually you’re looking for the next book or list or conference workshop.  Why?

Like anything that is worthwhile, you need to build your own version not someone else’s. It requires putting in the effort to truly find your own voice as a teacher, what works for you within the classroom, and developing the habits and structures to nurture your own learning and growth and that of your students.

Finding your voice as a teacher is so important. Now more than ever, teachers need to find their own voice and develop their own uniqueness, talents, and gifts.

That is what Teacher Creative is all about – creative, inspirational, sustainable, healthy – create your own voice to help others create theirs.