PRINCIPLE 2: OFFER
TO IMITATE AND INSPIRE
WHENEVER I INTRODUCE A CREATIVE PROJECT to students, I share the best examples from previous classes. This gives kids a vision for what can be achieved by others like themselves. Robert Sternberg and Wendy Williams explain that the “main limitation on what students can do is what they think they cannot do. All students have the capacity to be creators and to experience the joy associated with making something new, but first you must give them a strong base for creativity.”1 A good peer example can be the start of such a base.
Is it unrealistic to feature exemplary models of student creativity with your classes? After all, the average student typically will not produce such results. I know as a band director, it is the sound of the exemplary player that I hold up as a model. Such examples, played in person by a student or on a recording, present an aural goal the kids in band can aspire to imitate. Imagine asking a student trumpeter with mediocre tone to play for the band with the introduction, “Now listen to Bobby and try to sound at least that good. His tone is a little weak and his attacks are fuzzy because he’s still struggling with correct tonguing, but that’s the most many of you can hope for.” The average student instrumentalist recognizes the giftedness of exemplary model players and hopefully responds by improving. There is much to be gained by every participant in a performing ensemble, but the goal is to move each forward in terms of where they are on the spectrum of instrumental proficiency. In the same manner, the average classroom music student should be able to appreciate the outstanding creations of a handful of exceptional composers alongside of whom they sit. Nonetheless, my premise and belief is that all students benefit from creativitybased learning as they move forward in their ability to work and express themselves aesthetically. Listening to and examining excellent models is a key part of the groundwork that should be laid before students launch into creating.
From time to time, I create a model project myself. While I prefer to use a student example, I might need to do this, for instance, when I am introducing a new project idea for the first time just to “get the ball rolling.” There certainly is
1. Sternberg and Williams, How to Develop Student Creativity, 8.