Cricket in a Jar: A Creativity Parable

I found a cricket in my bathroom this morning.

He (or maybe she, who knows?) seemed perfectly content to watch me brush my teeth, but I knew that he wasn’t going to find what he needed in that environment. As far as I could tell, there was nothing for crickets to eat nearby, and moreover, the environment wasn’t safe. I have cats who were likely to view the cricket as a novel cat toy, or perhaps even a tasty snack. So, I determined to rescue the cricket.

I found an empty jar, and was able to handily trap the small intruder inside, very much like the cricket in the illustration. Hoping to traumatize the insect as little as possible, I decided to take the jar outside and leave it, open, lying in the grass so that the cricket could easily crawl out to a more hospitable environment. I left the jar and proceeded with my morning, feeling satisfied with my efforts to care for one small creature.

Some time later I went outside to retrieve the jar, only to find that the cricket was still within. He was walking around and around inside the jar, seemingly unable to find his way out. I picked up the jar, turned it upside down and shook it gently. He came to the edge of the jar and gripped it tightly. He was not going to budge. Apparently, once having decided that the jar was safe, he wasn’t venturing further. Finally, I found a small stick and poked his feet until he grasped the stick and I could place him, carefully, on the ground. In moments, the seemingly fear-filled cricket was transformed and hopping vigorously around the grass. Perhaps it was my imagination, but he seemed positively joyful. In moments he had hopped off out of sight, off to some new corner of cricket-world.

It occurred to me then, that it is easy to be like that cricket. When we find ourselves in difficult situations, it is easy to cling to the familiar, even when new and better things are close at hand. It is the reason creativity so often requires the willingness to take risks, be nervous or afraid, and venture forth anyway. We aren’t often moving out into new physical spaces like my insect friend, but the risks of trying a new idea or sharing a new perspective can be just as daunting. Perhaps the story of my cricket is one you might share with the young people around you. Particularly for those of you still in the first weeks of the school year, sharing the idea that you value taking intellectual and creative risks can be an important part of building your classroom climate and community. You might consider challenging students to devise other metaphors for the type of classroom you are working to create. If you do, I’d love to hear them.

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