What do Thomas Edison, Frida Kahlo, and Michael Jackson have in common? No, they haven’t all recently launched a podcast. Instead, they grace the pages of a terrific new book that tries to reverse-engineer that elusive quality/trait/skill known as “creativity.”

In Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind (Buy it at Amazon, BN.com, or IndieBound), University of Pennsylvania psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman and writer Carolyn Gregoire enlist psychology and neuroscience to examine some of history’s finest “messy minds.” The result is a fascinating look at the often contradictory habits and practices of the most creative people.

I asked Kaufman to share some advice with newsletter readers. Here are his 4 tips:

1. Make time for solitude. For all the hoopla over collaboration, open offices, and constant connection, we can easily forget the value of solitude. The benefits of solitude are many, including the opportunity to find flow, daydream constructively, and think about the meaning of your life. For optimal creativity, set aside time for solitude — from taking a walk in nature to carving out moments when you’re fully removed from social distractions.

2. Think differently – intentionally.  Creative people are nonconformists. The most original contributions in any field don’t result from efforts to please the crowd. Research by Emory neuroscientist Gregory Berns suggests that iconoclasts “bombard the brain with new experiences,” which scrambles existing categories and forges new connections. So take a different route to work. Spend time abroad. Listen to a new genre of music. And the more intentional we are, the better. One study of more than 3,000 entrepreneurs and business executives found that innovators spend 50 percent more time trying to think differently — and these intentional efforts sparked new ideas and associations.

3. Try open-monitoring meditation. We’ve all heard the benefits of meditation. But research by Italian cognitive scientist Lorenza Colzato and her colleagues shows one type of meditation is particularly effective for creative thinking. It’s called “open-monitoring” meditation – in which you are receptive to your thoughts and emotions without focusing intensely on, say, your breath or a mantra. By contrast, the more traditional focused-attention meditation was better for “convergent thinking” (coming up with a single best solution to a problem). So depending on where you are in the creative process, try to make time for at least a 15-minute meditation.

4. Embrace adversity. History’s creative geniuses weren’t tortured souls. But they were adept at finding meaning and guidance from their setbacks. Some of the greatest creators had a seeming disadvantage — a disability, mental illness, or loss of a parent — which they channeled into their art, writing, or entrepreneurship. To help with your own creative growth, view every setback as an opportunity to reflect: What can I learn from this and how can I put this into my work?

More info: Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind |  NY Times review of the book 

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3 weeks in – I know everyone’s name. I have no idea if I am teaching them anything, but so far, so good. The school is very friendly and supportive – I may have fallen on my feet.

Stop press: I have been paid! After a year of not being paid, it feels very odd to be back in the black (which Mitch is listening to).

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I am now a qualified teacher with a job teaching year 1. It is going to be interesting teaching 5 and 6 year olds, as I have only ever taught year 6 (aged 11) and older. I have met the class and my new colleagues and I am looking forward to the challenge. I am also looking forward to having a salary; my redundancy money ran out some time ago and I have been living on what I find down the back of the sofa for the last few months.

I will try to update this blog with my NQT experiences as and when.

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The end is nigh

In my last week of my last placement. This school has been great. I have been teaching Year 6, which has been challenging, but I am going to miss them. I have a job to go to in September. The school say it may be in Key Stage 1! This will be interesting, as I have never taught children younger than Year 6. I am spending three days next week in Year 1, getting  used to them – then I am going camping with Year 6, which should be fun. The last hurdle is: persuading my university tutor that my paperwork is in order (quite a high hurdle).

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SE2 – almost where?

I am having a great time on School Experience 2 so far. Random children come up to me and say, “How are you Mr B?”. I taught a terrible lesson to year 6 yesterday; they responded by behaving abysmally – I don’t blame them. Today, I taught a much better lesson and all was well. The school has a “warm” feeling from top to bottom – unlike many. I have fallen on my feet.

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Maths worksheet generator


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What to call your student teacher

My new name is: “Miss… Sir”. I am going to laminate a “T”; I will then be: “Miss “T” ir”, which is great as far as I am concerned.

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Maths ITP resources

Some great Maths interactive resources which can be used on whiteboards etc. here and here.

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Personal statement

I have found another thing that I am not very good at – writing personal statements. Lambeth rejected my first attempt – apparently, “I can talk the talk, but can I walk the walk?” I am a student, so no, not yet. I then spent a long time re-writing to include more evidence of things I haven’t done yet, and on the advice of various people, making it more personal. I sent it to my tutor who says, “Your personal statement is too personal.” No exclamation mark or hint of irony – go figure.

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Maths, maths, and more maths.

Very good maths resources site here, lot’s of lesson plans, exercises, schemes of work etc.

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