x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Teachers urged to let children dream

A "creativity scholar" visits Ibn Seena English High School to remind teachers to think beyond classwork for students' success.

Playing with creativity: teachers at Ibn Seena school in Sharjah perform a skit using simple props.
Playing with creativity: teachers at Ibn Seena school in Sharjah perform a skit using simple props.

SHARJAH // Teachers at Ibn Seena English High School spent last weekend learning how to put creativity back in the classroom.

Speaking at a workshop held at the school last Saturday, Ismet Mamnoon's first advice to the Ibn Seena teachers was, 'let children take risks'.

"If children were not risk-takers by nature, they would never learn to walk," she said.

Ms Mamnoon is a student of creativity - literally. She is studying for a master's in the subject at the International Centre for Studies in Creativity (ICSC) in New York.

The ICSC formalised its degree programmes in creative studies in 1967. Its courses promote creativity as a life skill and explore ways to apply it to leadership, decision-making and solving problems.

Randah Taher is an alumni of the ICSC who now lectures at the University of Sharjah. She says students aren't learning how to apply logic and lack diverse views on issues.

"There needs to be a multidisciplinary method where we do not concentrate on skills for a single profession but take a more flexible approach to matters," she said.

Last weekend, Ms Mamnoon told teachers at Ibn Seena that a child's creative ability is reduced by half during his first year at school. From then on, she said, the child's creativity would continue to diminish.

"Education teaches students one right answer in the most efficient way possible, and if they do not have that answer they are penalised," said Ms Mamnoon. "Children need to be allowed to take chances and explore possibilities."

Ms Mamnoon also told the teachers that dreaming in the classroom shouldn't be punished, but encouraged.

"When I taught martial arts, I would use the principle of fantasy and imagination," she said.

"I would ask my students to visualise a Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan movie where they are being attacked. That way, each move they take is in defence and puts a purpose behind what they are learning."

Geetanjali Kulkarni, a grade 6 science teacher at the school, said it was easy for a teacher to stagnate and become bored when lecturing on the same subjects in the same format for many years.

"I am constantly thinking of ways to make lessons diverse now," she said. "For instance, I might try moving away from the regular question-and-answer assignments for the students and give them crosswords to complete instead."

Ms Mamnoon will visit other schools in Sharjah this week to share her expertise on thinking out of the box.

aahmed@thenational.ae