And Now a Few Words from a Highly Creative Child

Actually, this was written by an analytical but insightful adult. (So if you’re not into children, that’s okay. You can still read on and dig it, y’know?)


by Kathryn P. Haydon

Dear Grown-Ups,

I’m confused.  Sometimes adults tell me that I’ve done something really creative, and that my unique thoughts might help solve the world’s problems.  But often you say other things about me, like I’m a dreamer and I have a hard time paying attention, or that I need to apply myself.  When you say these things, I’m not sure what you mean because I see myself differently.  But when I hear the comments so often, I start to doubt myself, too.  So I’m writing this letter to give you my responses to the things that adults say, and to share a few ideas about how you might be able to help me be my best self at home and at school.

“He’s smart, he’s just acting lazy.”
Have you seen me on the floor of my room, building intricate creations with Lego bricks?  Or in the garage, making inventions with found materials and repurposing electronics?  Or at my computer, surviving in customized Minecraft worlds that I build myself?  This may look like play, but it is the work of my creativity. Creating is the ideal educational objective in Bloom’s revised taxonomy (Krathwohl, 2002), thereby positioning creativity as the ultimate level of thinking.

My imagination is fertile, my motivation is high.  But when you give me an endless flow of tasks that skip over my ability and desire to explore and to think original thoughts, I just can’t connect.  I need you to help me see why it matters to me, or how I might actually use this math in real life.  I love to build.  There’s your starting point.  Give me an authentic project, ask me to solve a problem that might help make the world a better place.  Motivate me to use my own unique gifts, and I promise that over time I will deliver!  Even in her early research, Theresa Amabile (1987) found that when people are intrinsically motivated they will do their most creative work.

He has a hard time paying attention.”
Yes, it’s true.  But only when I am required to sit at a desk for hour upon hour every day doing work that that doesn’t relate to what I’m really good at—imagining, delighting in discovery, creating.  Put yourself in my shoes, and ask the hard question: If your job required you to do tasks that ignored your greatest assets, how engaged would you be over time?

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