David Kelley is an inspiring speaker and I enjoyed hearing his ideas. It is great to put a human face to such a successful organisation as IDEO. His recollection of the creative stifling that his fellow student experienced as a child resonated with me. I am currently an Art and Graphic Design teacher but did not come from the privileged position of being a naturally gifted artist or creative thinker. I had various teachers along the journey of school education, all with some level of ill-informed good intention, tell me that I was not good at Art. My fourth grade teacher laughed and showed my fellow students my very rudimentary attempt at drawing a koala in a tree. My Year 8 Art teacher told me I should not continue with Art in Year 9. I am not sure what spurred little Lisa on to reject the views of respected adults, but perhaps my desire to pursue and improve at something that I loved was stronger than the attempts to crush my perception of my talents. These are experiences I always share with my own students and I think they make me a better teacher. I see my Year 8 students grow in confidence when they hear my stories and see that I am quite a skilled artist in my adult life. They lift and try things out that they may not have if they were told they were either ‘good or bad’ at what they are doing. Then the A-E grading system comes in and stifles creative confidence again.

Another anecdote that Kelley reminded me of was a recent conversation with my six year old daughter. She was carefully and successfully working on a colouring page, painstakingly ensuring that all marks were inside of the lines. She had repeatedly asked me if what she was doing was good, which for her intended purpose, it was. I then suggested that whilst it is good to have that careful control, some good artists are in fact not careful or controlled in their art making. I showed her images of John Olsen and Mike Parr’s artworks, at which she gasped and agreed that they were not neat or tidy, but very ‘messy’! I explained that their intention might have been to express an emotion or experience the freedom of markmaking (in language accessible to a 6 year old). She acknowledged an understanding of my point before replying that she wanted to ensure her work was neat and tidy so that her teacher would say, “Well done” and give her an A, B or C, not a D or an E. Unfortunately at such a young age, social expectations and conformity are well ingrained and reinforced by our education system and by the time I meet students in my high school setting it is much more challenging to break through a student’s perception of their own creative ability. Kelley’s ideas help to reinforce the worth of this effort to change creative perceptions and to continue the effort to build confidence in the ability of my students to think creatively.