Imagination as friend and foe

I have a newfound respect and appreciation for the imagination. When the walls felt like they were closing in during successive lockdowns and restrictions over the past eighteen months, it was in the imagination I found comfort, whether travelling to distant shores and sensing the Cretan sand between my toes or feeling the last warm rays of the sun as it disappeared behind the Tagus. However, despite finding peace within my imagination, as a hyperaphant – someone with a vivid imagination, too much consumption of news and social media would sometimes feel as if my imagination could be both friend and foe.

This binary view of imagination is something I navigate in my work with educators as I support them in exploring innovative and creative approaches to education. Change in education is notoriously difficult, there are very few mainstream examples of education being done differently therefore, how is an educator supposed to imagine anything beyond the status quo? My work involves tackling this from two perspectives, firstly by scaffolding a process to help them imagine what education might look like 10 or 20 years from now and secondly, by slowly deconstructing their barriers. Untethering the imagination to envision the future through possibility thinking, before tethering the imagination to shine a light on invalid fears around taking risks and stepping outside their comfort zone. I think the imagination is both an exciting and untapped tool in creating meaningful change within education – for the educator, for school culture and learning, and for the learners in their charge.

Nia Richards is a Creative Education Consultant and Partnerships Catalyst, and the Founder and Director of Tybed, an educational social enterprise.