How To Teach Creativity In A Test Driven Culture

About Pedro Cabrera

After graduating from Texas State University in 2011 with a Bachelors of Arts in Communication Studies, Mr. Cabrera moved to Houston to teach in Aldine ISD. After two years, he moved back to San Antonio, Texas to begin teaching at the high school level in Judson ISD, where he teaches journalism and is in charge of managing the school’s student newspaper and campus yearbook. He received his Masters of Arts in Communication Studies from Sam Houston State University in 2015. Along with teaching journalism, he is also an adjunct professor of communication, teaching a dual-credit speech communication class.

I am blessed to have what many other teachers don’t: autonomy.  A 2014 Forbes article listed the top 10 skills wanted by employers: ability to work in a team structure, the ability to make decisions and solve problems, the ability to communicate, the ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work; and the ability to obtain and process information, all skills found in a journalism program. The time and space for creativity in the classroom is rare.

Being an advisor to a high school’s journalism program is a teacher’s dream. It is filled with students who want to be there, who want to be creative, who instill in themselves career skills, who indirectly and directly craft the campus image, and who end up making time capsules that will stay at the school forever. The entire program is student driven.

Sadly, it can have struggles of its own. In a culture focused on test scores, it seems difficult to teach creativity when it is something that is difficult to objectively measure.

In a culture focused on test scores, it is difficult to teach creativity Click To Tweet

Set Standards

It’s a buzzword in the education world: Rubric. Rubrics allow students to know what the adviser expects. However, they can be a bit formulaic and restrictive.

The guide to teaching newspaper and yearbook production, to ultimately teach creativity, is to be completely hands-off. That can be difficult for teachers to do. Admit it, we can be perfectionists.

Give students a starting point. Point A: an article’s subject, a yearbook spread, or a photography assignment. Students are given limited things to expect: for an article, a lead, a quote/transition formula, and quotes from your interview; for a yearbook spread, a headline, a story, a dominant picture, and all pictures must have captions; for a photo assignment, students must have at least 100 pictures per hour they are there, and there needs to be a focus on their face.

How they get to point B, I don’t care. Just that they get there. Point B: Newspaper and yearbooks students are given deadlines. And at that deadline, whatever you have created has to adhere to our standard.

Pride

If the first struggle is being hands off, the second struggle is creating a culture of pride.

I have heard high school teachers not hanging student’s work because it is very elementary. Once great photos are taken, I hang them across the large campus and inside my classroom. Not only is this a great way to market the program, the yearbook and the newspaper, but I post the best of the best pictures. Students strive to have their work displayed, so they work better and harder. They also realize, through constant drilling, that their work will be published and will be up for criticism. They strive to not mess up.

Creating a culture of pride Click To Tweet

The standard for their work elevates every semester of every year. They are driven to be great because that is what is expected of them.

Assessments

If the first struggle is being hands off, and the second struggle is creating a culture of pride, the third is how to adhere to a campus and district grading policy with a production class when you can’t really objectively assess creativity.

Develop a grading system that works for your class. Although they don’t like to admit it, many administrators forget how it is to be in the classroom. They have to please students, parents, stakeholders, the school board, the state, and will focus on tests that will determine their accountability. They may not know how a production class works.

Once you develop that system, let your administration and parents know of your expectation, validate it, and be consistent. Production classes are not core classes; they work completely differently.

Setting standards, creating a culture of pride in their work, and establishing a sensible grading system that is supported by your administration and your parents will allow you to detach yourself from a test driven culture and create a classroom full of creative minds. The latter is most important – once they are on your side, it is smooth sailing.

 

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By | 2017-02-06T21:44:08+00:00 February 8th, 2017|High School, Instruction&Curriculum, Instructional Strategies|0 Comments

About the Author:

After graduating from Texas State University in 2011 with a Bachelors of Arts in Communication Studies, Mr. Cabrera moved to Houston to teach in Aldine ISD. After two years, he moved back to San Antonio, Texas to begin teaching at the high school level in Judson ISD, where he teaches journalism and is in charge of managing the school’s student newspaper and campus yearbook. He received his Masters of Arts in Communication Studies from Sam Houston State University in 2015. Along with teaching journalism, he is also an adjunct professor of communication, teaching a dual-credit speech communication class.

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