Ken Robinson

Note: this speech is merely a writing exercise. The speech is based on the style of Ken Robinson’s previous speeches for the purpose of improving my professional writing capabilities. This piece has been written with a teachers conference in 2016 in mind.


Good morning. How are you? It’s been interesting, hasn’t it? Thank you Nicky for your speech, it was interesting. I was blown away. In fact, I’m leaving. [pause] Like many teachers actually, who already have. [Pause for reaction].

There have been a couple of things in this conference which have really stuck out for me. The first is this dread and fear I have noticed among many of the speakers , and other guests, teachers, educationalists and such, about the future of education. Specifically what it might look like in four years time. For years now we have been discussing this idea of reform in education, revolutionising the way we bring our children up into the world as active, participating, well-rounded members of society. In fact most of my talks over the last 10 or 15 years, at TED in America and the RSA over here, have been focused on reform and revolutionising the way we educate. However over the last few days when I have discussed reforming education with people here I have noticed a kind of sense of doom creep over them. But I have also noticed something else, I’ve also noticed the passion among teachers to do the best thing for their pupils. I mean it really is strong, it’s almost tangible. And it is that passion, to me, which is really crucial for the second thing I’ve noticed, which is the innovation of teachers. And this is what I really want to talk about, you’re all so innovative. So innovative and I’m not sure you all realise it.

I’m going to tell you a story, which I thought was quite remarkable really. I was told this story by a teacher I had met at a dinner party, which is in itself remarkable. [pause] Probably his yearly outing to meet people who are neither six, other teachers or his wife. [pause] He must have been quite disappointed the man he spent most of the evening talking to was, in fact, me. An educationalist. [pause]. Anyway, he told me about a relatively new young teacher who had just taken over a class of 7 year olds. And she was trying to think of a way to approach a few different things, which were: the environment, mutual respect for each other, and for their environment, the classroom, and encourage them to be creative. So this older teacher, who I’d met at the dinner party, gave her a few ideas, you know, play this game, do this activity etcetera, etcetera. So she went away to think about it, a few days went by and my dinner party teacher had forgotten all about it. Anyway, one morning about a week later this teacher approached him in the staffroom saying, I think I’ve gone some way to tackle it, I’m quite proud of what we’ve achieved.

She described how she had split the class off into their tables and had each one doing a small part of the project, we’ve made a little contraption would you like to see it? [pause]. And what she’d done was quite astonishing.

The class had attached a pencil sharpener onto the bin, so the sharpenings automatically went into the bin, a generator was attached to the end of the sharpener, which was then wired into a small lightbulb. So as you sharpened your pencil the light bulb would flicker on. [pause]. Isn’t that fantastic? [pause]. Now I know all teachers are capable of teaching creatively in this way. You all have the skills, you all have the equipment. All the elements of this project were already in the classroom. The sharpener, the wires, the bulb. And, most importantly, the teacher. I believe all kids, schools, teachers have the ability to create incredible things such as this. But here comes the problem, how can teachers achieve creative teaching and still stick to the strict curriculums and standards we see in schools now?

I’m going to recite, now, an interesting poem I heard the other day about creativity, which struck me as quite reflective of the current situation:

isn’t an educational activity,
neither it arrives instantly,
nor it’s an outcome of agility,
it’s a simple process involving complex
and conscious effort with honesty and nobility;
is pretty important,
but selectivity and reactivity are the constant content;
for being consistent,
makes one stagnant in this forest of serpent,
being dynamic and open is a powerful weapon,
for realising the distinct ability,
which is known for its nativity,
to walk towards the roads of progressivity and festivity.

It’s an interesting poem, not only does it describe creativity as neither essential to education or a subject of education, but it highlights how essential it is to agility, consistency, ability, progressivity and festivity. And all of those things are essential to any kind of learning, not just the arts, but learning of any kind. Scientists and mathematicians are among some of the creative minds in the world, and by quashing and suffocating creativity in schools we are stunting the ability for millions of children to flourish in whatever way they choose. Which I feel is immensely damaging for the future of human progress.

So, what we need to do, is we need to captivate the passion and the drive, which the recent educational reforms has stirred and we need to put that focus directly into the classroom and inject creativity back into the curriculum from a grassroots level. If the department of education is not willing to listen to the needs of millions of children across the country then, teachers are. Instead of focusing on the lack of creative scope in the curriculum’s set by the government teachers can begin to protest by filling it with creative teaching styles, and themselves encouraging and creating creativity in the classroom. Thank you.