By Jedidah Morley
Our world is facing major problems and challenges for the future. Knowing that a new generation is coming through with fresh ideas and creative solutions to these problems is comforting. It’s exciting to witness innovative and curious minds at work, developing, growing and being enriched!
But what happens when these beautiful and creative minds are restricted? What happens when they are told to conform or behave like the ‘norm’? What happens when they are not given the opportunity to recognise and explore their own strengths and talents, but rather told that the things that make them unique and amazing, makes them different from everybody else, and being different is a a bad thing? What happens when thinking and acting like everyone else is desirable?
I believe the answer is nothing. Nothing will change, no problems will be solved and no one will be able to generate an idea that has never been thought of.
When I was in my first year of school I remember very vividly colouring in a duck. I really wanted my teacher to like it so I made it all different colours. I gave it spots and stripes and I even gave it a hat. I remember other kids looking at me strangely but I soldiered on, unperturbed by the yellow crayons being worn down by others and other colours being left untouched. When I proudly took my completed picture to the teacher, she told me quite blankly that ducks should be yellow with orange legs.
I’ve always wondered if this very clear memory affected my self-confidence or contributed to me being introverted and awkward around others. I wonder if I would have taken more risks at school if my teacher had praised my individuality rather than tried to get me to be like everyone else. I know that this is one very small event in my life, a life that has been influenced by many events and relationships, but because I remember it so well, I can’t help but think that it was a defining moment in some way. It is for this reason that I wrote ‘You’re Different Jemima!’
Jemima is a girl at school trying very hard to please her teacher but she is different. She sings too loud, creates her own dance routines, makes up fantasy stories and creates a duck that is rainbow coloured. Jemima’s teacher wants her to be like everyone else. Her classmates recognise her difference and regard her as strange. Fortunately for Jemima, another teacher takes the class one day, and this teacher embraces, encourages and nurtures Jemima’s difference. Jemima realises that being different can be amazing.
Now I am all grown up and I’m a Music Teacher who is fortunate enough to teach many amazing and wonderfully creative minds. Because of early experiences at school, such as colouring in my duck, I have always aimed to nurture creativity and encourage diverse thinking. I love witnessing children who think ‘outside the box’ and come up with ideas that I never would have dreamed of. I constantly reflect on my teaching, ensuring that I’m a teacher that would support the ‘Jemima’s’ of the world rather than hinder or stifle them.
Hopefully the message that I am conveying through ‘You’re Different Jemima!’ is that we should all encourage and celebrate difference. We should nurture those amazing young minds that are starting to develop. We need to do this because our world needs creative problem solvers who think outside the box and who can tackle challenges with solutions that haven’t been thought of or considered yet.
I’m so very fortunate that the publishers from Empowering Resources, share these beliefs and are just as passionate about celebrating difference as I am. Hopefully our partnership will help spread this important message to children, parents and educators so that we can celebrate our differences and know that the future of our world will be in safe, rainbow coloured hands.
Jedidah Morley is a Primary teacher living in Bargara, QLD with her husband and three wonderful daughters. She is a keen writer and loves to nurture children through her picture books, including her first book ‘The Best Birthday Cake in the World’. For more information on Jedidah Morley please visit her here.
The publishers at Empowering Resources aim to “be a leader of dialogue. To be a voice. To provide resources that initiate conversations in the home and in the media.” More information can be found here.