Irn Bru Sausages – Creativity Gone Bad!

Okay, let me clear this up. If you are unaware of the delights of Irn Bru, Scotland’s ‘other National drink’, it might be simpler to describe it as a bright amber fizzy drink which, perhaps, has been one of the main reasons Scotland has the worst dental record in the Western world. Small, ginger and potentially bad for your teeth. Think Billy Bremner, Jimmy Johnstone and Gordon Strachan all rolled into one, to use an even more obscure Scottish cultural reference. Irn bru sausages, on the other hand, are slightly harder to explain.


So how do I ‘link’ sausages to Creativity? Even the most confident of us would find that a struggle, probably, but I’ll give it a go. You see, it should be difficult to avoid the word ‘creativity’ in education these days even if you wanted to. The word itself is spattered liberally throughout the Curriculum for Excellence documents here in Scotland and it would seem unthinkable that teachers wouldn’t include creative elements in lesson plans every day. Why wouldn’t you?

Sir Ken Robinson defines creativity as ‘the process of having original ideas that have value’ and his wonderfully inspiring book, ‘The Element’ provides a context to this while describing the ingredients required for children to develop this creativity. Inspiring our kids to produce new things which ‘have value’ should be the sole purpose of education.
Having just finished Phil Beale’s great wee book, ‘Dancing About Architecture’, I’ve been thinking about new ideas for creativity in the classroom almost constantly. In the book he quotes from James Webb Young’s ‘A Technique for Producing Ideas’, that:

 

‘a person with a propensity to produce ideas will be someone who sees the relationship between things; relationships that are not obvious on first sight.’

(Dancing About Architecture, p.120)

 

He suggests, I think, that as part of In-service Days  we should match subjects to random activities and sports, for example, Maths and Cricket, and ask the Maths Department to come up with ways to teach Maths through Cricket. On a personal level, this sounds like a great way to add spark to the more mundane aspects of teaching English. Badminton pronouns, anyone? Croquet connectors? I could have some real fun with this idea next term.

However, it raises some really important issues about cross-curricular learning. I welcome the potential opportunities that the Curriculum for Excellence offers when encouraging departments to work together. The only way we are ever going to inspire and convince all children that what we teach is important to their lives is if we start to tear down the artificial barriers of subject division and begin to link things together.

However, if there are some sports which just don’t seem to work well with a subject – Water Polo algebra, off the top of my head – then is it too much to expect every subject to be able to work with every other? In our desperate struggle to embed cross-curricular learning, is there a danger of forcing subjects together which clearly don’t work?

I like chocolate and I like marshmallows: therefore chocolate marshmallows must be a little piece of heaven. However, I like irn bru and I like sausages…

Perhaps as we plan new courses and a new curriculum we need to be very focused and specific about what we want our students to be able to do by the end of their learning. Be certain of what you want to achieve. Otherwise you may end up with Irn Bu sausages…

The World Doesn’t Care about Me

I was beginning to feel quite pleased with myself. Six months of, what appeared successful blogging; lots of positive feedback; renewed enthusiasm for writing. I even transferred to this new fancy Word press Blog last week without too much fuss. I thought I’d discussed some important issues, things which intrigued me, changed me, and affected me in my daily grind as an English teacher. Brimming with confidence, I began my holidays with renewed confidence and bold intentions. Then I read a couple of things and it made me stand back a little.

I came across ‘Dear Jon letter (a.k.a. The world doesn’t care about you)’  a few months ago when I was just getting underway with this Blogging thing and didn’t really think much about it. No-one really read my blog anyway so why should I care? But now I consider myself a semi-serious Blogger with hopes, I reread it last night. Sobering. The lovely people who’ve commented on my Blog and those who have tweeted some nice things have helped but you are only really as good as your last post, aren’t you? There are too many things to readout there  without providing anything new or interesting. Unless I do that, will these readers hang around?

‘Maybe. And, if you’re adding value, they might stick around. Maybe. Or they might not. If you’re really lucky, they might tell a few friends about you. And some of those people might actually stop by and/or stay. But they probably won’t.’

Added to this I also read ‘Reality Hunger’ by David Shields. This is a thought-provoking book which questions established perceptions of Narrative, Art and many other things. He claims, at least I think, that the blurring of publishing lines allows everyone to tell their story, making it more and more difficult to sustain quality.

‘Suddenly everyone’s tale is tellable, which seems to me a good thing, even if not everyone’s story turns out to be fascinating or well told.’

David Shields

I linked these two pieces of work quite comfortably as I reread my first six months of Blog posts. My writing is not bad, quite enjoyable in places, and I do try to make some goods points. I don’t think they really go beyond a mild chin scratching though. Very rarely do they encourage discussion. That needs to change.

Now I’ve moved over to this new Blog, I vow to make my Blog better. In doing that I will try and be more weighty in the points I cover. I will try to open up discussions which perhaps are not being discussed elsewhere, perhaps shake a few cages and indeed open myself up to closer scrutiny. I’d hate for my Blog to be merely a vanity project. My Blog needs to better, much better than yesterday.

‘Say the things you’re most ashamed of, things you don’t want to remember, things you don’t want anybody to know. Maybe that way there’ll be some truth.’

David Shields.