Creativity | Parent Wellbeing Blog

Our school campus is an undeniably creative space. You have to look no further than the walls of our Prep Reception building to confirm this belief. The art displayed in this small area is a snapshot of what the rest of the grounds look like, and should you take a few steps beyond the reception, on any day you might be met with the sounds of the orchestra, the choir or a soloist in the midst of practise in the Wykeham Hall or music rooms.

With so much evidence of creativity at the hands of pupils and staff alike, it’s difficult to dispute the fact that we at MCM are a creative community. What we see and hear when we walk around the school is a scratch on the surface of what goes on daily for our pupils. We have songwriters, graphic novelists, poets, fantasy world creators, animation specialists, musicians and composers, photographers, creative journalers, gaming programmers, sculptors, novelists and flash fiction experts.

I always see it as a special window into the soul of a child who chooses to share their creation with you. We are lucky because we see so many of their creations, but there are still many more which we do not see. However, the writing, art and compositions we make do not always need to be for an audience. To many, the act of creating something, no matter what, serves a much deeper purpose.

As a child, I read Little Women, and I read it voraciously. In the pages, I recognised myself in the character of a little woman named Jo. She was funny, caring and creative, she made mistakes and she loved fiercely. Her fingers were always stained with ink, and a thousand story ideas ran around her head. I was committed to the character and desperate to follow in her footsteps as a writer. My father brought home an old wooden school desk from work – the sort with a lid that lifted and an inkwell. I was desperate for the inkpot which would fit into the desk, the last link I needed to become Jo March, writer extraordinaire. A shy child can spend some lonely hours, but I did not feel the loneliness when I sat writing a story at my desk in my room, or in the library or during English lessons. With the love of writing grew a love of reading, and the loneliness morphed into a set of books I had in common with those around me.

Now I wander amongst the tables of our new Art area outside the Art rooms. During days of physical distancing and new procedures on how to play, the Art Area has morphed into being. The peaceful hum is a direct contrast to the crazy handball games which often inhabit that very court. The origami from last week smiles down at me and the pupils are focused on their creations. I ask one pupil why she likes the Art Area. “It’s peaceful” she says with a small shrug. She’s never really thought about it until I asked her, but now she looks around and notices the difference.

In the Library, the day we reopened it for break times, the split of excited students was equal. Half set to silent reading, and the other half to colouring, drawing and for a select group of Year 6 girls, fashion design. In the busyness of the day, it’s peaceful.

Another student tells me about her art creations during our online tutor chat. She has been working on her paintings and holds her latest landscape up to the camera, hesitant at first. When asked why she likes to paint, she pauses. Like the other students, she doesn’t think about why she enjoys it, she just knows that she does. A few more seconds pass. “I feel free when I paint. There isn’t someone telling me what to do or how to do it, I can just do it.” Her day of schedules, timetables, bells and learning the laws of grammar, mathematics and physics, place names and dates is ended with something that does not require a set of laws. It ends with something that has no right or wrong answer to worry about. It is her art.

In a locked-down world of screens and blue flickering lights, creative expression flourished. Take for example the lockdown Art replicas our students created last year or the musical compositions they produced online. Now, as our pupils continue to face the everyday challenges, emotional shifts and social changes that come with being a human, it is equally important for them to continue using creativity as an outlet. There is no denying that creative writing, art and music carries therapeutic benefit in the lives of our pupils.

The sale of mindful colouring-in books has proliferated and many studies show the benefit of creative writing for mental health. Creative writing, art, drama and music are all used as therapeutic outlets which allow pupils and adults alike to explore their emotions, express them or channel their energy into something constructive. Author Virginia Woolf summed up the impact of her creative writing experience by saying the following, “I expressed some very long felt and deeply felt emotion. And in expressing it, I explained it and then laid it to rest.”

It’s clear that there are many avenues of creative expression which our pupils explore on a daily basis, and that these have long-lasting emotional and social benefits. These then are the avenues that we can continually seek to grow, both in the school and at home.
While exploring some authorship on creative writing for therapeutic benefit, I came across a set of rules to govern your writing. At first, I bristle – creativity should not have rules – but I read them and recognise the benefit of following them, not only in writing but in every creative pursuit.

  1. Trust yourself
  2. You can’t write the wrong thing
  3. Give yourself the gift of this writing.

Our pupils feel the benefit of creative expression, even if they do not always stop to explore why. Therefore, we can encourage them to trust themselves, to know that they cannot create the wrong thing and to always aim to give themselves the gift of their creativity.

Mrs McDiarmid | Head of Prep. Humanities, Form Tutor


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