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Pushing the Edge

Look Back to Move Forward: Dig into your Creative Past


Ever find yourself telling stories about your creative classroom escapades. Go on, admit it. Our partners, friends, and students will certainly attest to it.

  • Maybe it’s a really funny moment;
  • Maybe it’s a ‘you won’t believe this….’ scenario – when you were just floored by what a student did or said;
  • Maybe it’s… 

  • …. a time when it finally clicked for a student. You persisted and it paid off big time.
  • Maybe it’s an occasion when you were just ‘in the zone’ and you wanted to be no-where but your classroom – with your students.

For me, there’s a grab-bag of stories that seem to magically pop into my head whenever I need to clarify a teaching point to my university students. And yes one certainly needs to be discerning about sharing another story, at risk of students fleeing the scene whenever you say, ‘I remember when….’

Somewhere, somehow though, we can lose connection with our magical classroom moments – our peaks creatively – when we’re ‘flying high, soaring’.

Those moments that we treasure, that make us feel so wonderful. Those moments that reinforce why we teach.

When we lose connection with these precious moments – it’s like someone trashed or raided our creative story-box. And all that’s left are stories of gloom and doom.

Today: How to re-build and re-invigorate your creative storybox – when it’s sadly depleted.

By the end of this post – assuming you take action – you’ll start to ….


Let’s start with a trip back into my Teaching Vault 

When I was with these students, time stood still. There was no looking at the clock despite our early starting time.We just connected. It was like something magical happened between us..

They were so passionate, so into what we were learning. So much so I’d find myself looking around the room in astonishment that everyone was, for the most part, on task.

Sure there were activities they weren’t ‘keen on’ but even then they’d be pretty honest about it. I didn’t feel threatened or insecure.

It was an early morning class, and with children and a range of life-commitments that made it difficult for students to be on time every week. Nevertheless they would make the effort to get to class. And I’d be so happy when another one came through the door. To me, it was like our class family was complete or just about complete. How good is that!

Students would say, “Greg, how come you’re happy when we’re late?”

  • I’d reply, “…because you chose to come to class even though you’d missed part of the class. That makes me happy.”

Coming from a wide range of cultural backgrounds they’d regularly translate or re-explain ideas or concepts for each other. They’d look out for each other.

In this class, I could bring all my experience and skills. I could just be me, no covering, no hiding. I could be me, warts and all. Somehow I just knew what to do when I was teaching them. I seemed to function at a higher level.

Here I was game to try out new techniques. I was exploring new worlds of marketing and coaching – quite outside the fields I was teaching in. Somehow I managed to find ways of linking or connecting them to my subject area.

I wanted to be better and to do better each week. Nothing was a bother or chore. I actually had to stop myself from going overboard such was my desire to assist and support them.

It was like: I was back – Creative, Hopeful, Inspired Greg – AT LAST.

Walking back to my car after class, I’d be on a high, so so happy, so so satisfied, and totally rejuvenated. I was literally buzzing.

It was like I was home, at last.

As we approached year’s end, I said to them,

“You’ve taught me what I need to be doing. And you’ve shown me who I need to be teaching and working with.”

Over to You…Look back to Your Creative Past

This story connects me back to one of my Creative Peaks (teaching wise).

I encourage you to look back yourself. Write or draw about a moment or two when:

You were doing something new – different  – outside the box:

  • when your students were full of interest and passion. They were totally engaged;
  • when you felt a real buzz;
  • when you felt like this is what I’m meant to do – as a teacher;
  • when time stood still and you just knew what to do. It came to you, naturally.

 Feeling Stuck? Here’s some Get Started Tips:

Just start writing words, phrases, or fragments, even draw, just let it flow. Soon it’ll start coming back to you and the sentences will flow.

  • Write freely – in one take – including whatever detail comes to mind (no censorship).  Go all out.
  • Use as many senses as possible – focusing in what you see – hear – feel – smell – taste.  Your writing / drawing should take you back there, like it was just yesterday.
  • Come back to your story the next day. Your brain has probably been processing it overnight and additional aspects may come to mind.
  • Record anything that surfaces when you’re out and about. These details will help flesh out your story – give it bite.

So what are the Benefits – of focusing on your Creative Past?

1. You’ll get clearer about yourself as a teacher – what works for you. 

2. You’ll discover what drives you – as a teacher. What motivates and inspires you to get out of bed in the morning.

3. You’ll  establish Reference Points that’ll guide you towards more positive, passionate, creative teaching. And whenever you’re in a dip, they’ll give you clues as to ways forward.

4. You’ll experience the buzz, the high that comes from knowing the impact you’ve had on your students.

5. You’ll know that you can do it all again. You can be passionate, creative, and most definitely awesome again.

Your Creative Challenge/s:

1. Looking for some tips on creativity? Check out my Creativity Tips Videos and my Creative Disruptions post. 

2. I love hearing from you.  Write a couple of discoveries you make (in your  own Creative Stories) – in the comments box below.

  • Share any tips/tricks you come up with.  They’ll help others like you too. 
3 comments… add one
  • Coastiemoes

    I appreciate reflecting on years past and some of those creative successes.
    I’ve taught at some wildly diverse Socioeconomic settings, from the very well off to the barely surviving. I find that I’m able to use lessons from one setting in another i.e. What would have been boring and mundane at the well off school becomes engaging and ‘creative’ at a low SES school and vica-versa.

    E.g. At the well off school, they ‘understood’ poverty (in a latte left Nth Shore kinda way). I once, a decade ago, tried to show them the real meaning of poverty means lack of choice and being forced to gratefully accept what is given, even if it is not what is wanted…. I threw them a ‘party’ which consisted of frozen veg, cold baked beans, dry crackers and soda water. They were very indignant, “We know what poverty is Ms, this is unfair trying to rip us off with a dodgy party”. They didn’t get or appreciate it.

    This year I am teaching in a low SES school with students from intergenerational unemployment etc…. We were looking at Human rights in Australia…. They were struggling with the idea of “How come Aboriginals get everything and we don’t” kinda stuff. I threw them the ‘party’ that I’d thrown years before…. These kids got it…. They loved it and it radically changed their mind set. (They were rather dubious last week when I said I bring a party in on the last day to reward them for their great work this term, they were very relieved when they saw real, actual pizzas….lol)…

    Anyway, my point is, don’t give up on creative lessons which seem to fail, you might be able to use them again on a different group of kids or in a different setting…

    • Greg Curran

      Me too…there’s much fun and creative learning I’ve found in wildly diverse settings…some of my my best teaching experiences…the reflecting seems to connect me back to me….to my voice….motivates and inspires me forward….How about u Jen?

  • Greg Curran

    Me again…Love your advice about not giving up on creative lessons that ‘seem to fail’….Yes they may well and truly resonate with others as you found. And there’s something about the moments when things ‘just click’… At times, I find myself almost surprised….ahhh they love this, they get it. Thanks so much for your reflections Jen…I’m sure they’ll resonate with many others…


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