Life skills. Accessing our creative selves and our inner storytellers in order to engage with challenges, opportunities,setbacks, and relationships we’ll navigate in our careers and personal lives. Some researchers group these skills under the notion of radical empathy, and the interesting thing to know is that they also cite creativity as being one of the most effective ways to cultivate this invaluable human asset. As artist Taney Roniger remarks:
What is a genuine aesthetic experience if not an arousal from ordinary consciousness and a jolt into elsewhere—a mode of awareness more vivid, more perceptive, more intensely alive, resonating in a world suddenly laden with meaning?
That’s what Schools Sessions at Scribblers are all about: placing students in situations where we can help them develop their mental and emotional intelligence―radical empathy if you like―in order to grapple with a future where more choice doesn’t necessarily lead to more clarity.
Psychological credibility, story-building, plot and narrative: all these elements count in literature and graphic story telling. How characters relate, or don’t relate, to other characters, or to their surroundings, whether idyllic or dystopian or, like real life, somewhere in between. What are the issues these characters grapple with, and how do their creators address them in believable and sympathetic ways? Identity, ambition, mental health, sexuality, relationships, self-confidence. These are challenging concerns in adulthood, let alone at the life-stage when an individual is rapidly developing mentally and physically. How can we help them by making it easier to broach sometimes difficult and uncertain topics?
One way is through the creativity involved with, and resulting in storytelling, words, images, and lyric. The Scribblers guest authors and illustrators in the Secondary Schools Program―people like designer Beci Orpin, musician Josh Pyke, artist Chris Nixon, graphic novelist Alice Oseman, poet Sophia Thakur, and authors Wai Chim and Leigh Bardugo―are not just about happy endings and pretty pictures, but are real individuals who engage with personal challenges as well as the world around them, and channel these experiences into professional creative outcomes.
Scribblers’ Schools Program responds to international research revealing that:
Education is most effective when young people are actively involved in leading and shaping it, taking responsibility for their own learning and playing an active leadership role in school life. Creativity brings with it the ability to question, to be curious, make connections, innovate, problem solve,communicate, collaborate and to reflect critically, the skills young people will need if they are to take responsibility for their own learning.
So there are solid reasons for engaging with creativity in a learning context; but also in contexts outside of the traditional classroom. What might your students take away from a day of frank discussions in the company of the Scribblers guests? Perhaps the incentive for a future career. Perhaps the comfort of knowing that others share insecurities and are simply trying their best. Perhaps the realisation that the quiet kid, or the noisy one, are not what they might seem on the surface. Radical empathy, perhaps.
Photo from Scribblers Festival Schools Program 2018, by Taryn Hays.
Creativity, Culture and Education’s 2012 Report ‘Changing Lives’