Meet ProjecTHINK Keynote Speaker: Ismet Mamnoon on Teaching Creativity

Education

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY WEDNESDAY PHILANTHROPY EDITION WEDNESDAY FEB 6, 2019

This March 1–2 comes the return of ProjecThink—an annual conference dedicated to exploring the world of innovation and creativity in learning. Hosted on the Ringling College of Art and Design campus, the conference kicks off this year with a presentation from Ismet Mamnoon, founder of Beyonder, TedX speaker and featured by Time magazine for her work weaving creativity into parenting and education. SRQ grabbed a seat up front for a preview.

How do we engage more creative thinking in the classroom? Mamnoon: It's not about trying to get the children to be creative; it's about trying to get the teachers to be creative. They have to model the way.

Creativity comes from the top down? The real challenge is to get teachers to recognize and value creativity in themselves and in students. Appreciate it in the classroom, place a value on it, recognize it and show that it matters, that it's something that you're looking for. You don't even have to actively go out and foster it; you are actually just not killing it.

They have to recognize it in themselves too? When you can awaken a teacher's own natural potential for creative thinking and creative being and creative doing, then they suddenly recognize how important this is, because it starts to impact their lives. Once you've awakened that recognition in a teacher, then you just have to get out the way, because now that they believe in its power, they will do everything in their power to pass it onto others. You can't expect them to turn it on and off in a classroom, you've got to turn it on for them for their whole life.

What's the biggest hurdle that people have in recognizing their own creativity? Fear. Fear of being wrong, fear of looking foolish, fear of saying or doing something and giving up the mantle of being an expert.

Everyone wants to be the expert right? Yes, and everyone thinks that they're judged if they're not. It's about embracing your vulnerability. The day I can get teachers to give up this notion that being right all the time is the first thing that they need to do, I really start to create change. It allows them to experiment, it allows them to benefit from trying something new and taking those spills and falling and stumbling along the way. We didn't learn to walk by suddenly standing up one day and running a marathon. Why would we learn to be creative that easily?

So it’s not about innate ability, but taking the time to learn? Why do we assume that as we get to be adults, that learning will be something that will just happen overnight? That's not what adulthood is about—it's not what it should be about. It should be about knowing that learning takes effort, knowing that learning happens when you fail or succeed, knowing how to learn is what adulthood is about.

Pictured: Ismet Mamnoon.

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