Have a Creative New Year!
We hope your school year has gotten off to a wonderful start. Since it’s the beginning of not only the school year but also Rosh Hashana, we wanted to wish you a healthy and happy new year, and also one filled with creativity and the joy of new discovery. The latter qualities may not seem like a natural outgrowth of this season, which is associated with introspection and, at times, inner struggle, as we wrestle with who we are and who we want to become. However, that struggle is, in fact, at the heart of the creative process. Here is Julie Burstein, the creator and founding executive producer of Studio 360, the Peabody award-winning weekly public radio program which explores the artistic and creative process:
It is difficult to watch our children struggle, whether it is with illness, schoolwork or in differences with their friends. At work and in our communities, it is usually frightening to acknowledge failure, to discover that we need to develop a new approach to a problem we thought we had solved. In our relationships with family and friends, it may feel easier and less hurtful to avoid the friction of opinions different from our own. But what artists show us is that these challenges are not just unavoidable: struggle, failure and difference can become sparks for our creativity (http://www.sgiquarterly.org/feature2012Jan-2.html).
Though creativity is an integral part of every profession and passion, Burstein goes on to detail the lives of artists such as Chuck Close and Richard Serra and Pulitzer-prize winning writer Richard Ford, who all worked through the struggle of various disabilities in order to succeed. Those struggles included dyslexia and learning disabilities that our own students struggle with and that, at the time Close was growing up, were unrecognized. Back in the 40s and 50s, Close revealed, “I was just dumb.” Close said, “I learned early on that since I wasn’t athletic, I couldn’t run or throw or catch a ball, I needed to do something to keep people around me. I began to realize that one of the things I could do that my friends couldn’t do was draw.”
Creativity emerged from the struggle that these individuals had with the way the world worked around them and their desire to locate a place for themselves in that world. Part of the reason we’re invested in the I.D.E.A. Schools Network is because we know there’s still work to be done in making sure all of our students feel comfortable with who they are as learners and see themselves able to contribute with their talents and passions to the classroom world in which they spend so much of their day and to the larger world around them.
In fact, while we aim to bring the joy of new discovery to our schools and classrooms, we know that it can often be found by connecting our students to the outside world. Take the recent cave discovery in South Africa of a new species of hominin. The remains were discovered by spelunkers and eventually renowned paleoanthropologist Dr. Lee Berger was able to study the site. He noted, “I do believe that the field of paleoanthropology had convinced itself, as much as 15 years ago, that we had found everything, that we were not going to make major discoveries and had this story of our origins figured out. I think many people quit exploring, thought it was safer to conduct science inside a lab or behind a computer.” What the new species Naledi shows us, Berger concludes, “is that there is no substitute for exploration” (New York Times, September 10, 2015).
Soon after we end the High Holy days, we begin anew the cycle of reading the Torah, with Sefer Bereishit [the Book of Genesis], in which God, of course, creates the heavens and earth.
Being creative and fully exploring the world are ways we can engage in imitatio Dei and feel closer to our Creator. Our job as educators is to bring to light the multifarious ways our students can be creative explorers — as students of Torah, artists, scientists, historians, mathematicians, writers, athletes, tinkerers, and more. We wish you all success in doing so and look forward to additional opportunities to learn, grow, create, and explore again with you.
Eliezer, Tikvah, and the I.D.E.A Schools Network Team