Sunday, April 29, 2012

Creativity defines creativity as "the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination".

As my semester is coming to an end and I was sitting and wasting time on facebook, I saw a posting of Ken Robinson's six year old speech on the lack of creativity in our current educational system.  It rang very true with me.

Lately I have been griping a lot about how I have to keep giving instructions to my students about every single thing.  At what point did these kids become so dependent on just getting instructions and being told what to do (which they eventually don't do)? It is as if they have lost the capability of having an independant thought.  "Just tell me what you want me to do," .... is their attitude. 

In some career choices this attitude is just right, like in the army, where you are required to follow rules.  But in a place of higher education you are supposed to open your mind, think outside the box, express yourself and have an open discussion about your ideas.  But it seems like the current generation is not ready to express themselves intellectually or artistically. 

What's going on??

I have also been having discussions with myself and one of my chemistry colleagues about the way we teach chemistry.  Sometimes I don't even like what I have to teach then how can I inspire my students to love chemistry the way I do? These days we teach what is in the text book and what is prescribed to us, not what should really be taught in the at a particular level of student intellect.  So, in reality, we are also becoming like our students, unthinking machines, just teaching right out of the book or just from the power points.  Where is our creativity? We make our students memorize facts and equations as if memorizing those will solve all the problems and help them reach their goals.  When really what we should be teaching is problem solving and critical thinking (another day.......another blog)

After hearing the speech by Robinson, I decided to write about what I have been thinking about for a while. my humble opinion I think we are all falling victims to the system.  Up to secondary schools we are taught to be disciplined to the T and in college also we are told what classes we need in order to "make the money" we will need to "live" life.  Everything has become about "making money" rather than following one's passion and to live the life they actually want to.  This system works for a person who likes to follow orders and cannot think much for themself.  And then of course, there is the lucky one - a person who can make money while following his/her dreams!

I thought I was the lucky one when I got my first job teaching chemistry, a subject I love, and a profession I love.  It all began very well, but somewhere in the last 7-8 years my love of this profession has suffered a set back. I don't feel like the students are what they used to be and I don't think I am able to convey to them the passion and love for the subject as I was able to before.  We are repeatedly told to accomodate the new generation and adapt the new technology - as if that will solve all the problems that students are having with their ability to think.

Most students just sit in my class looking at me to finish my gibberish; they think I am teaching them a foreign language (which sometimes chemistry is).  The amount of content and books don't make it easy to get creative in class.  We are recommended by some higher ups that we have to finish these 10 chapters in class in 15 weeks, and if we don't do it then the students are not prepared for the next level of class.  This does not sit well for the creative types like me. I want to do something new, I want to take my time, I want to go over the material in a different way, I want to....oh so many different things. But this silly preparing the students for the next level is just killing me!! creativity.

The students don't make it easier either.  They don't feel they should have to do any work outside the class, they don't feel like they should have to make any effort to learn the material themselves so I can do more creative things in class. My class has become like a recorded script of last year and the year before....

I really need to get my creative mojo back!!!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Self Determination

I am not going to even pretend that I am the first person who said that self determination is important for sucess in life. But I can surely say from personal experience that if I did not have self determination and self-confidence, I would not be where I am now.  I am not in a very high level position, rich or a famous person. But I am comfortable in my life and in my own skin.  What is my measure of sucess for myself? I have a secure job, a lovely house, good health, good friends and so much more freedom than many people. 

I have had good experiences that I will cherish and also had the bad ones which sucked the life out of me.  The saying that "sticks and stones can break me but words will never hurt me" is really quite not true.  Not only do words hurt people but the lack of words, silence, can equally hurt people.  Also the saying that "time heals everything" - ehh! not really true.  One may heal in some ways but the scars are always there.  So in our own ways we need self determination to get through life's challenges.

For self determination one needs to have faith in something.  Keeping myself centered on that faith and believing in myself made  me ready for anything.   I may not be able to control the outcome of my decision, but I can control how I react to the outcome.  It takes a lot of self control and self determination to not always "react" to incidences.  Having faith in the fact that everything happens for reason, helps a little bit, especially when bad happens.

My faith in my own abilities and judgement made me stronger and self reliant.  After I started living by myself, 20 years ago I had to grow up.  My first time living alone for one year in Buffalo taught me some tough lessons in financial management (another time, another blog).  After that whatever decisions I took, good or bad, were mine to make and I was the one to face the consequences.  I kept the frame of mind that I was the only one responsible for my actions.  That way I could not blame anyone for my decisions and took full responsibility for them.  That made me a little lonely but stronger. Of course, now I understand that my decisions are not really mine to make - someone up there is making them for me.

Making a decision, especially big ones, have not been easy.  I have to make sure my values are well grounded, I have weighed the consequences and my intentions are good.  I will not be right all the time and I may also hurt people with my actions, but those decisions hurt me too because they are the hard ones to make.  (Sometimes in those cases other people are happy you took those decsions instead of them - so they are not held responsible.)

In any case I wish that people would:
  • believe in themselves,
  • be true to themselves,
  • be responsible for themselves,
  • take actions that are morally right (for most part) and 
  • not depend on other people all the time.

I have been called self-righteous and too independant, neither of which is true, well....maybe sometimes its true :-)  But I do like my independence and I do like to play fair. I am what I am - I am not pretentious. I am what we call in America - WYSIWYG.  And that comes from being honest with myself and the people around me.

This blog entry would be incomplete if I did not mention Gabbar Singh from the hit movie Sholay.  His dialogue "jo dar gaya samjho mar gaya." (He who is scared is dead), has been my motto for the past few years.  That dialogue has given me more self confidence than I can imagine.  Thank you Gabbar Singh!!