I have done a lot of thinking lately about innovation in education. What does that really mean? How can I model that? What does that really look like?
I am inspired this morning by the book, “Future Driven,” by David Geurin. I have just barely started reading the book and already the same questions are crashing down on me. Reflecting on his own school experience, he writes:
“For the most part, my teachers “taught” me and I sat and “learned.” My voice was not needed, and my unique gifts were not valued. As a result, I truly learned just a fraction of what was taught, and I was a good student. Much of what I learned was forgotten soon after it was regurgitated on exams.
It made me think of my own daughter who was very unmotivated all throughout her high school years. I think she might still be there if I had not “dragged” her through. She was a mediocre student at best and did not understand the connections to her life with what she was learning in the classroom. Once she was able to find her passion and get her voice she excelled in her learning and is right now is top of her class in culinary school, working on graduating with distinction and loving every minute of it.
I am overjoyed for her but sad that she had to wait until she was an adult to find that excitement for learning.
Teaching is such a rewarding but very overwhelming job. It can consume us in many ways if we let it and because we care about our students so much, it is hard not to let it. The feeling of being overwhelmed by the never-ending to-do list is what, I feel, prevents teachers from being innovative.
I can speak for myself trying to be a school administrator and a classroom teacher. There are many times I feel like I am unable to do either job well. Balance is hard and even though the basic desire to try and be innovative is there, sometimes I can find myself settling for the same old thing, just because I am in survival mode, rather than taking the time to weight the benefits for my students.
Now, I am not trying to make excuses or even claim to understand what motivates or doesn’t motivate teachers. I can only speak about what motivates me as a learner and a teacher.
- Positive relationships with my staff, students, parents and my supervisors.
- Support to make choices about my learning and teaching that comes with a level of trust.
- A level of understanding about workload and time coming from others around me.
- Acknowledgment of effort and innovation.
- Support to take risks knowing that with risks come mistakes.
We had a short discussion at our last staff meeting motivated by an article, “10 Ways Teachers Can Inspire a Generation of Innovators,” written by A.J. Juliani. The article is worth looking at because it brings us back to the idea that innovation does not need to be rocket ships and fireworks. Instead, it needs to be intentional, focused and starts with the learning of the teacher. If we truly do not want to be left behind and desire innovation, then we need to go after it.
Replace complaints (and blaming) with solutions.
I can complain all I want about my lack of time, focus, and balance. It does not change what is happening in my school and in my classroom for our students. If I could take one thing from “Future Driven” by Dave Geurin, it would be this:
“Seek new possibilities.