I said something to my students the other day during an activity that elicited an odd response. We were working on our idea of a “Dream Classroom” and they were coming up with very minor improvements like a class computer they could use or a couple comfier chairs in the corner. I wanted them to go further and I told them to “Dream big!”. I had a number of them ask me what that meant. This bothered me, as imagination is such a key part of fostering creativity and in turn, innovation in our students.
Our students are too often told what they can’t do, or how impossible their aspirations might be. We’re quick to give them the “cold hard facts” about the real world when they tell us they want to be a pro hockey player or become a recording artist. There is no doubt we have to prepare students for the real world, but we should be careful not to stifle their imaginations in doing so. I think it is important to engage in activities without limitations or restrictions. When it came to our Dream Classroom activity, I wanted them to have unlimited budgets, zero space confinements and the freedom to imagine what they could. Many found this difficult, and wanted black and white rules and guidelines. These are the EXACT kids who need work on this area. I believe you can foster imagination, maybe not teach it, and it is a very important part of what we do.
The reason this topic was fresh in my mind was that this weekend I coached my first training camp for the college basketball team I work with. Last season we struggled, and did not win many games. I have been tempering my hopes for this season by trying to remember what we did last year and how far we have to go. I didn’t want to get my hopes up and be let down, and I didn’t want that to happen for my players, as I am sure it did last season. In the second or third session with the guys, I saw them working hard, learning, helping each other and competing at a high level and I thought about the message I am sending to them if I set my expectations low. If I don’t dream big for them, and with them, I will stifle this work ethic and commitment. Maybe we won’t make playoffs, maybe we won’t win a lot of games, but I know I don’t want to be the reason we don’t.
The funny thing about imagination is that the more we are educated, the more we “grow up”, the more we lose it. Try to change that in your classroom and see what happens. At the very least, I am guessing you will enjoy the results.