Not for the first time, I find myself having to contradict what I previously wrote. But that’s fine: contradiction provides a rich source of creative possibility. Now I’d like to explore the benefits of doing less.
Do What You Can, When You Can
I know… last time I wrote ‘perhaps we could all benefit from having less and doing more.’ I still stand by that. But it does need Some qualification.
The point I was making was that we shouldn’t use not having something as an excuse for not doing something. However, what I wasn’t suggesting is that we should aim to be busy and productive all the time. Rather, we should do what we can, when we can, with what we have. And this needn’t necessitate constant struggle.
Oddly enough, I was reminded of that fact recently, whilst reading about the work of Albert Einstein. It would be easy to assume that Einstein spent his whole life slaving over a smoking blackboard. However, he dropped out of school in Germany, having found the environment too pressured. He then spent a year reading philosophy and casually dropping in on lectures at a local college, before taking up ‘serious’ study.
Had Einstein not given himself such mental space, it’s possible he may never have made the breakthroughs he did. It took enormous leaps of imagination to generate his world-changing theories. So, time spent nurturing that imagination was certainly not wasted.
As educators, we can provide our students with opportunities to be both ‘doing’ and have mental freedom at the same time. This, of course, is through creative activity. Whether painting, dancing, singing, writing, sculpting, etc. they can fully immerse themselves in their thoughts and ideas. At the same time, such tasks block out external ‘noise’. So the imagination has room into which it can expand.
We are all under near-constant pressure to be achieving and productive. Whereas, truth be told, little of our activity produces anything. And most actual output comes after a period of reflection or contemplation. So, any exercise that manages to combine reflective thought with tangible output has to be valued.
Just Another Chore
But we must avoid the tendency to make this just another chore; something to be ticked off a list of of achievements. Creativity should provide a space in which pupils can step outside of their normal modes of thinking. And this is a chance to develop useful life habits.
Through creative expression, we can challenge our own certainties. We can explore new possibilities. And we can develop new ideas. But they key is to immerse ourselves in the process, not rush headlong towards a proscribed goal.
Surprising and Rewarding
In education, we must set aims and objectives. That’s fine. But we must allow our students time to explore these fully. That way, they can be open to outcomes that are as surprising as they are rewarding.
Being truly productive takes time. So, sometimes, we do need to do less in order to achieve more.