Principal, Chase Elementary School
After spending a few weeks getting comfortable with their new devices, teachers began thinking about the best ways to facilitate student use of these devices when students receive them in the fall. The following message was designed to encourage teachers to consider how they might use this new technology in truly transformative ways.
What does a creative culture look like? Chloe and Cole, my 9-year old twins, are not only best friends; they are each other’s built-in playmate. They have literally been together their entire lives, including sharing a crib in the NICU for the first 10 days of their lives. As a result, they have worked together on some pretty outlandish projects without a whole lot of discussion. They understand each other to the point that each of them knows what the other is thinking most of the time. Because they know each other so well, they are able to avoid the typical stumbling blocks that we experience in moving forward with a creative project. To me, it has been really cool to see some of the wonderfully innovative things they have done together. I say, “to me” because while my wife certainly enjoys their camaraderie, she is very much a left-brained person who revels in things that are organized and orderly. When the twins embark on one of these projects and invite us to see the result, I have to remind my wife as we are walking down the steps to the “performance area,” that the basement will likely look like someone picked it up and shook it. Much to my wife’s chagrin, creativity can be messy!
Our basement is oftentimes a big stinkin’ mess because Chloe and Cole are being creative. The end product, though, sometimes borders on amazing (I know I am biased). The last event was a baseball-themed musical that included various selections from the movie Frozen. Let’s face it, you gotta be creative to put those two concepts together in a way that makes any sense. The process of accomplishing this house-wide famous musical did not have a clear end in mind, nor did it have a reliable digitally accessible script, state-of-the art materials, or a robust evaluative measure. It DID, however, produce tears in the eyes of the audience members and confirm that the end result is sometimes worth the messy process that we must navigate to get there.
The creative process is not only messy in the Elmendorf basement, but the studios of Pixar as well. Ed Catmull’s 6th secret to a creative business is Why Things Will Always Go Wrong – Even at Pixar. We all know that Toy Story 2 was incredibly successful. What you may not know is that it almost never became a release in theatres. The producer from the original film was working intently with his team on A Bug’s Life while a much smaller group was working on getting Toy Story 2 together for a straight-to-DVD release. When Disney execs looked at some reels from Toy Story 2, they liked what they saw and said they wanted it released in theatres instead. The problem was that Pixar didn’t feel that the film was of high enough quality for theatrical release and told Disney that it had to be re-done. Disney said the release date could not be pushed back, so Pixar remade the entire movie in 9 months, instead of two years! You may have seen recent commercials for a new movie called Good Dinosaur. This movie met the same fate as Toy Story 2 – a total restart due to lack of desirable quality. Catmull acknowledges the pain that is associated with this kind of mistake but claims that it is worth it in the end in order to maintain congruence with their core beliefs of “doing the right thing for the movies” (Catmull, 2014, p.73).
In order to maintain a creative culture and stick to our core belief of Excellence in Learning for ALL, we are also likely to restart some things and endure some painful moments. However, like was the case with Toy Story 2 and Good Dinosaur, in the end it will all be worth it when we do the right thing for the kids.