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Creative Tension

Creative Tension



“By reflecting on and naming our beliefs, we can honestly strive to bring them to life as practice. And when we notice a tension or disconnect between our beliefs and practices, we work to align them.” Heidi Mills, Why Beliefs Matter from The Teacher You Want to Be



An explosion from a cannon rocked the outdoor amphitheater and garnered a collective gasp from the audience. The outdoor play of Tecumseh, a Shawnee Indian chief and warrior, had me riveted to edge of my seat. My love of history started in that moment. Reading became my pathway to worlds of the past. As much as I loved reading about what had happened in the past, my highly idealistic and romantic heart also loved dreaming about what could happen. Like Anne of Green Gables, I loved “flying on the wings of anticipation.” This often resulted in big thuds when I landed in the present. I lived most of my early life in a tension between my ideals and my reality.



I was in college at The University of Alaska Fairbanks when I first started working with kids in an afterschool program. I realized that I was not very good at cooking with kids. I was not a good cook or a baker myself then….as evidenced by the frozen burritos and tater tots that were a staple in my freezer. Every attempt at baking or cooking with kids ended in frustration for everyone. I avoided cooking activities at all costs. Even with my own three kids, cooking with them stretched me. Eventually though, I became better as a cook and especially as a baker. Even so, I left the bread making to a machine. I marveled and excelled at baking desserts of all sorts such as pies, scones, fruit crisps, cobblers, and lemon bars. I am not sure what grabbed my interest in making bread AND wanting to make bread with my tiny humans! As I looked at the five loaves of golden, buttered yumminess we made together I was truly amazed.

This quote by Adam Grant recently stopped me in my tracks.


The clearest sign of intellectual chemistry isn’t

agreeing with someone. It is enjoying your disagreements with them.


Harmony is the pleasing arrangement of different tones, voices, or instruments, not the combination of identical sounds.


Creative tension makes beautiful music.


We, as Americans, do not like tension. We do not like to be in crisis or want our kids to experience any tension. And for good reason. I had an hour-long discussion last week with someone. It was heated and uncomfortable. Tension is the state of being stretched. I left that conversation, however, feeling a sense of freedom. It helped me keep my focus where it needed to be. When we inquire, we grow new beliefs. It is the surest sign we are learning. As a community of learners in the Compass Classroom we are accessing new learning, sometimes through conflict and tension, to find new ways of being. Creative tension helps us as we navigate and in how we see ourselves…whether as readers, writers, scientists, and, as citizens of the world.





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