Mentoring for Creativity

Posted by Sandra Miller on July 18, 2010

21st century learning is exciting!  I feel like the chains of No Child Left Behind are beginning to loosen.   Hopefully, testing will begin to take a more appropriate role, and teachers will be free to teach in ways they know will serve their students well in the future.  Now, for those of us who are principals, a part of our job is to help teachers move toward new ways of working with students.

We know 21st century learning covers a wide list of skills, but one area that is particularly challenging is “creativity.” How do you explain to teachers what it means to  “mentor students to be creative” when you really aren’t sure yourself?

Daniel Pink has two books that focus on the 21st century.  A Whole New Mind (2005) is thought-provoking, a fast read, and could easily be used with teachers to learn about creativity.  Pink explains creativity, presents tools and exercises to examine our own creativity, and talks about developing “creativity skills.”

Pink also discusses the skills needed for jobs in the 21st century.  He says high paying jobs will require that workers use their creativeness.  Much traditional work—accounting is a typical example—will be taken over by computers or outsourced.  Creativity will be the requirement for better jobs.

In his newest book, Drive (2009), Pink predicts tomorrow’s workers will be motivated by autonomy, mastery, and purpose; workplace rewards that may have worked in the past are outdated.  As educators, we have known for years that these are powerful motivators for learning, as well.  And, in fact, much of the work of the future will be all about learning.

David Kelly offers a complementary perspective.  While his research has been in technology design, his current focus is design thinking in K-12 education.   He believes students need to learn skills, but that for 21st century work, the creative side of the brain needs intentional development, too.  “Design thinking is basically a methodology that allows people to have confidence in their creative ability,” states Kelly.  “Design thinking is ‘intuitive’ thinking, it unlocks the other side of the brain.”  Sharing Kelly’s ideas with teachers can help them become better “mentors of creativity” to their students.

As we enter the second decade of the 21st century, and constraints lessen, it’s an exciting time share new ideas with your staff.  Pink and Kelly are a great place to start.


Published by

Sandra Miller

Sandra Miller has been a teacher, principal, and director of technology learning, as well as taught courses in the educational leadership program at Cal Poly Pomona. She holds a doctorate in education from the University of La Verne and is a founding member of the TICAL cadre.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *