I’ve promoted public education on this blog, as well as my Facebook and Twitter pages. I readily share articles such as this http://huff.to/2lcMg4G. I am 100% sure of each and every reason that public education is better than it’s ever been and relish the opportunity to engage in a debate with others on that very topic. However, the profession is far from perfect.
But creating, discussing, supporting, and implementing innovative ideas is not a strength of our profession.
I believe there are 3 primary reasons why this is the case.
1. Lack of structure supporting innovation – Networking across the country, state, districts, and even within districts is limited. There are pockets. You see collaborative groups at the ISD and in professional organizations such as MEMSPA and MASSP. Twitter is an amazing place to form a professional learning network. I’ve gained so much from all of those three structures. However, it’s not very often that innovation is a topic. I haven’t been in a lot of conversations about what is new, different, unique, and slightly risky that others are doing. I’ve never been asked, “what are you doing in your school that no one else is doing?” We are often talking about policies, teaching and learning, regulations, curriculum, evaluation, and other important topics. I’m talking about brainstorming, building on the thinking of each other, and the creation of new and innovative ideas. Happening, but limited.
2. Risk taking is not promoted – I have been so fortunate to work for great people during my time in education. Great principals and mostly great superintendents. They have shaped me into who I am, mentored me, and helped me to grow and improve as a leader. But even those fantastic educators didn’t often ask me to try something new, be cutting edge, or to think in a different way than I had thought in the past. Since I have been an administrator, it has not been a strength of mine either.
3. It’s not part of our fabric – With a good friend that works at Google and a brother in finance in Manhattan, I can safely say this is an area where we should follow the path of the business world. Their livelihood is built on coming up with what is next before the company across the street does. That innovation and creativity drive their business. Yes, it’s comfortable to do things that have always worked. If someone across the hall is using a certain strategy, we often use the same. If the elementary school down the street has a certain method, the one we are using is probably similar. Dave Burgess would say that educators have the inner spirit to innovate. The desire to be the true educator we were meant to be. However, we can be held back by how our peers perceive us. Pockets of action research existing in a school is a good thing. That doesn’t mean we throw out all that has made us successful. That’s not the message at all. The point is to keep doing those things while always pressing forward and creating what is next, and great, in education.
I feel like I can help with all 3 of those in my current role in education. This is a new mission that I am on and hope others will join me. It’s not about a shortage of talented educators with ideas. We need to create the time and place to put talented educators into rooms for no other reason than to share innovative thinking and ideas to improve education.