The Teacher You Want to Be: Alfie Kohn on Creativity

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Creativity—in education and in general—might be defined as the capacity to look at one thing and see something else. You observe a classroom, for example, in which students get to decide whether it’s really necessary to do a school assignment at home, and what you see is a respect for kids that could extend to giving them responsibility for any number of other decisions that, like homework, are usually the sole prerogative of teachers.

Or you’re introduced to an approach to teaching math that has students actively constructing meaning around fundamental concepts, and what you see is a truth about learning no less relevant to the social and moral realm: children need to make sense of ideas like fairness and honesty (rather than being exhorted to accept prepackaged virtues) exactly as they need to make sense of ideas like equivalence or place value (rather than just being taught procedures to practice and memorize).

Or you visit a remarkable program in northern Italy designed for young children—one that led the influential early childhood educator Lilian Katz on her first trip there to remark that she thought she had died and gone to heaven—and what you see are principles just as applicable to educating older students.

—Alfie Kohn

The Teacher You Want To Be: Essays About Children, Learning, and Teaching, edited by Matt Glover and Ellin Oliver Keene, is out now.

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