"Freedom of Expression"

How often have I overlooked creativity as a privilege, as a freedom? This question arose after three days in the swarming, curious world of thirty-six fourth grade students and one dedicated Teach for India fellow, Sharanya. After gathering scented markers, crayons, and a bag of pom-poms we explained to the students our hope for 'self portraits'. We encouraged the kids to draw and collage about what I assumed would be natural: their families, their homes, their favorite sports, and yet their initial struggle with the project confused me. After forty-five minutes only a handful had drawn with the sea of magenta crayons and teal markers. Most had reverted to writing sentences in pencil. DJ and I circled the room, cut out pictures, gave example drawings, and eventually the pieces of paper evolved into beautiful final projects. Before saying goodbye to the class on our last afternoon, several students shared their experiences: "Thank you for giving me color didi," and most importantly, "thank you for teaching me to express myself." I began to understand the meaning of this project beyond a craft or a novelty as I would often consider it at home. Colorful stick figures and macaroni drawings taped on fridges seem a staple of the American home but they too are a privilege and a freedom unknown to many. Creativity is not something that comes naturally but something that requires exposure, something that must be learned. Seen in the TFI students' initial struggle with the project, the freedom to express oneself grows from the privilege of an holistic education. Freire describes education as a process of being, as a creative transformation. How much more meaningful is it for a child to draw the ocean in a teal crayon rather than tell someone what their favorite color is blue? Art is a part of development that many of my classroom's kids might never have known without the shining light of Sharanya and TFI. Creativity and art feed Freire's theory of education, art is dialogue, it is an, "act of cognition," that leads to the, "emergence of consciousness," desperately needed to raise the next generation of global citizens. --Ryan