Imagine a world with no imagination! It’s easy, if you try (except if we can do so it would show there is still some imagination in the world!). No songs before us, around us only facts. Imagine all the pupils looking for the way. Imagine a world with no education. It isn’t hard to do; nothing to work or fight for, no results too (with apologies to John Lennon). Imagine no school; imagine no bullying, no racism, no crudity, no pressure, no propaganda, no articles on education…
by Tim Middleton
The sad reality is (and we do not need to imagine it, we can see it only too clearly) there is not much imagination around. We are constantly reminded that we are surrounded by fake news; but what ‘fake news’ suggests is not only that the news is not news but also that the news is not new; it is the same old same old. Yet the ‘fake’ implies we have in fact used our imagination to make up these lies!
We are not good at seeing things in a new light. Similarly, we are not good at saying things in a new way. Too often writers and speakers trip out the old clichés. Sports people are probably most guilty. “We have to take it one game at a time” (how many more could we take?); “He really gives 110%” (how can he give more than 100%?); “He’s lost the dressing room” (where did he put it?); “He’s got genuine pace” (can someone have fake pace?); “They scored too early” (is there an agreed time when we are meant to score?) Those who use clichés are maybe just lazy, boring, dull and unimaginative; the words and expressions used are worn out from over-use and have therefore become trite, annoying and meaningless. Where is the imagination?
We do and can use imagination in our teaching, like the English teacher who has declared that “Video Games produce brilliant essays”. Children will delight in such a notion, except the teacher is not referring to actual Video Games but to a mnemonic based on the letters of VIDEO GAMES. What they need to remember is that what is needed for a profound, effective and memorable composition are the qualities of Variety, Imagination, Description, Expression, Order, Grammar, Atmosphere, Meaning, Ease, Sparkle. We do not need to go into such details here (though the reader may be tempted to see if this article contains such qualities) but we do need to see the value of finding an imaginative way of getting children to grasp familiar, boring, difficult tasks. The teacher was certainly using one of those components in making the sentiment.
An alternative, imaginative method in teaching may be using a mnemonic, whether it is to remember the colours of the rainbow (“Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain” — though that assumes we know colours starting with those letters), the order of planets going away from the sun (“My Very Excited Mother Just Served Us Nine Pies”), the correct treatment if you sprain your ankle (“RICE”) or how to spell difficult words, like ‘rhythm’ (“Rhythm Helps Your Two Hips Move’) or ‘Diarrhoea’ (“Dining In A Rolls Royce Having Over Eaten Again”). Fortunately, someone has come up with a mnemonic for remembering how to spell the word mnemonic (“My Nanny Eats Mostly Old Noodles In Cans”)!
We might well question (if we are imaginative) why we should be imaginative and innovative? Being imaginative and innovative will exercise our mind and enable us to think in a fresh way. It will help us to remember things because it is new, fresh, dynamic and exciting. It will help us to add meaning to what we are trying to say. It will show originality and thus individuality. It will bring greater enjoyment. If we are still unsure, then imagine no John Lennon, no Walt Disney, no Chris Gayle, no Halle Berry, no Oliver Mtukudzi, no Tsitsi Dangarembga… only a world that is poorer. Imagine!
Imagine all the pupils learning for themselves. Imagine if we used more imagination; the world will be a different place. A new day has dawned, unlike any other day — a new year approaches. Imagine how we can help our children to imagine and envisage the potential and promise of all that is new. We must look at things in a new light and direction; we need to express things in a new way. We need to learn to see what is not seen. Great things can come from imagination! As John Lennon sang memorably, “You may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one; I hope someday you’ll join us and the world will be as one,” so we wish the same. Imagine that — and we are not the only one!