Written by Belinda Huang
It is easy for teachers to feel the pressure of rules and regulations in the classroom, especially when it comes to standardized testing and curriculum. As student outcomes are increasingly linked to teacher pay and school rankings, educators face a rigid and conformist teaching environment that encourages teachers to sacrifice classroom innovation for “teaching to the test.”
It can be frustrating or disheartening to feel like your creativity and passion have to fit within these constraints. After all, teaching is more than just ticking boxes and filling in spreadsheets — it’s like an art. Here are five suggestions to reignite your teacher creativity and create lessons that reflect your teaching philosophy.
- Make creativity a daily goal
Simply changing your perspective will start bringing your creativity to life. Instead of worrying first about fulfilling requirements, start by considering what you want to teach and what your students need. Reframing your plans to aim for daily creativity will help you see teaching opportunities outside of the usual or expected. Most times, your creative lesson plan will fall within the requirements anyway, or only require minor tinkering to fit. But with this mindset, they’ll be richer and more exciting learning activities from the start.
- Find your passion for your subject
No matter how many times you’ve taught a unit before, try to find something that gets you excited. Maybe it’s Mayan architecture, or conspiracy theories about Shakespeare’s writing. Whatever it is, do your own research and become as knowledgeable as possible. You can draw on these interesting and lesser-known aspects of your subject to fill your lesson plans with creativity. If it’s a little unexpected to you, it will certainly be unexpected and fun for your students. As a bonus, it helps keep your interest alive and make teaching more enjoyable.
- Collect creative teaching ideas
The most creative ideas will often come from your fellow teachers. Be involved with other teachers, with teacher training days, and with online teaching communities like this one. Everyone is proud to talk about their teaching successes, and you can incorporate the best ideas into your classroom practice after hearing the do’s and don’ts from a fellow teacher. It can help to keep a log of interesting ideas handy, to draw on when your own creativity needs a boost.
- Incorporate your own hobbies and experience
Just as we encourage students to bring their authentic selves into the classroom, educators should be able to do the same. Incorporate your favorite music, artwork, or story and share your excitement with your students. Being engaged with activities and events in your own world can inspire interesting connections in the classroom. Maybe you come across a new website or app, or an old knitting tradition or technique, that can enrich your student’s understanding of a topic. Keep pursuing your hobbies and interests and see what connections come.
- Be confident in your teaching abilities
Exploring your teacher creativity often means being different from the status quo. It might mean standing out from your fellow teachers, or daring to question the way things have been done. It might mean making a mistake when a new idea doesn’t work out. You may have to prepare more and work harder to make your creative lessons successes, but they will be worth it. Whatever happens, all you can do is trust your teaching instincts and know that you are doing your best.
Nobody becomes a teacher just to help students pass tests. We do it because we are excited by the work and the opportunity to help our students grow. Passionate and engaged teachers are not only better educators, but also happier ones. And best of all, our students benefit from lessons that are dynamic and relevant to their lives. So embrace your creativity as a teacher and educator — and watch your classroom thrive.