Embracing Creativity

Here is a guest post from my husband Ryan Carney on creativity in schools. He is a middle school guidance counselor and advocate for finding ways to positively engage students in school by fostering their own innate talents.

Are students bored in school? Or perhaps the more appropriate question might be: has student attention declined with the surge of technology? After watching the video, Changing Education Paradigms”, from Sir Ken Robinson I turned to Google and put in a search for “the rise of ADHD in children”. ADHD is described as an epidemic by many, with approximately 6 million children in the United States diagnosed with the disorder since 2011. I found a significant number of articles from reputable sources such as CNN, NBC, etc. citing that between 11% of children aged 4-17 are diagnosed with ADHD. These articles seemingly all cite technology as one of the main issues. They argue that students are facing so much screen time that they are unable to focus and pay attention in class. However, I do not believe that technology is the “problem” here.

It is human nature to crave and absorb information. The children of the 21st century are not an exception in that regard, they have just found new mediums that did not exist when we were growing up to find their information. Children are excited and engaged when they are with friends on their phones or computers looking at videos on YouTube, but when it comes time to pick up a textbook, they can’t focus. As a school counselor, I struggle to label this as ADHD. Teachers need to find creative ways in which to engage students so that   As Sir Ken Robinson says, “ I am not saying that the condition does not exist, however I am suggesting that this “epidemic” of ADHD as described by the media is not as it seems.”

As a school counselor I work closely with many students that present with symptoms of ADHD. These students are generally among the most innovative of their class. The late Robin Williams once said, “We are all only given a little spark of madness, you mustn’t lose it”. In a culture where conformity is valued, those who do not fit the traditional mold are alienated, medicated and isolated. They are told to pay attention like everyone else, when they are incapable of being anyone except themselves.

As we move forward in education we must be diligent in our dedication to treat creativity in education with the same regard as mathematics, social studies, or any other discipline. It is far too easy to lose sight of our innate talents in a world as fast paced as ours. It is our collective creativity that brought America to prominence. We mustn’t lose our spark of madness.

We Are A Constant Work in Progress

Today I watched President Obama’s speech that took place to commemorate the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Alabama. President Obama stood proudly at the foot of the Edmund Pettus bridge where 50 years ago hundreds marched to protest for the constitutional right to vote. The march on the Edmund Pettus bridge was one of three planned marches that would galvanize the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

As I stood in my kitchen watching the speech live on CNN, I was struck at how far our country has come in terms of overcoming obstacles. On a day to day basis the time for a deep reflection on our nation’s history is not taken. The President so eloquently captured our nation’s most trying times and focused on the positive changes and growth we have made as a community of people.

The speech was powerful and poignant. The central message encompassed the work of not just a few, but of all Americans. The emphasis on the collective power of a group showed that together we can make amazing things happen. I know that today’s speech was directed towards all Americans on a day meant to commemorate the history that took place there 50 years ago, but it was the President’s call to young people that really struck me.

You are America. Unconstrained by habits and convention. Unencumbered by what is, and ready to seize what ought to be. For everywhere in this country, there are first steps to be taken, and new ground to cover, and bridges to be crossed. And it is you, the young and fearless at heart, the most diverse and educated generation in our history, who the nation is waiting to follow.” -President Obama 

I plan to keep these words close to me as I find them extremely inspiring. Empowering ourselves and empowering our young people to take the first steps toward positive change will undoubtedly affect the greater good of humanity.