“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow” – Pollard
That quote goes underneath my electronic signature for every email I send. Part of the reason is due to my desire to uncover what is next, to make life better for students and teachers, and to collaborate with others to develop impactful ideas. It seems like I always have some swimming around in my brain.
- Our elementary school was open from 7 am – 7 pm each day, served 3 meals for students and families, and provided extra curricular options as well
- Each school, by law, in the state of Michigan, had a mental health professional designated to support the mental health needs of students and families
- Report cards didn’t exist. Students traveled from year to year with their data binder and the emphasis was on growth, not proficiency
- Students and their families could decide on school hours that worked for them. Some students could come 7-1, others 12-6, whatever worked best for the schedule and the needs of the family and the student
- There were no grade levels. Students entered a school building and were placed and moved with students of similar social/emotional and academic skills
- Each intermediate school district worked with the local districts (all, not some) to coordinate community/business partnerships that allowed students at all levels real-world professional experiences
- Students, even in elementary school, had various schedules based on interests and levels of academic progress
- Each student had one hour of their day designed to explore their interests which may lie inside or outside of the curriculum standards. The teacher simply worked as a facilitator and resource to that exploration
- Entire districts and states made the move to adopt a balanced calendar, which is clearly best for kids
I could go on and on. How can we rethink some past practices and adjust them to better our educational system? On the flip side, those of you reading this could find details and reasons why my ideas wouldn’t work. That is where innovation is put to the test. No idea is stamped for approval upon its inception. Too often, the reasons not to outweigh the desire to overcome those obstacles and thinking is shut down or rejected. In other instances, people think to be innovative the idea has to be immediately earth shattering. Not true. Innovation is simply a new idea or method. Don’t think your idea is too small or won’t have a profound impact. You’d be amazed at what something can grow into and the effect it can have on our educational system if you take that chance and don’t wilt at the first sign of pushback. Now, don’t get me wrong. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” still exists. Some things are great just how they are. But some need to be tinkered with and others need a complete overhaul.
So, what am I going to do about it? Well, I am going to continue to push the envelope of innovation. I will keep presenting ideas, creatively trying to solve problems and to rethink past practices. But, for the short-term, I need to start somewhere. Here are the three places I want to start and focus on for the 2017-2018 school year.
- Differentiated professional development for teachers – I’m excited about the plan we have at Jamestown to develop small group professional learning communities based on teacher choice, educational impact, and personal growth plans. The hope is for the principal to mimic the type of gradual release structures we expect of teachers and to move away from so much whole group time. There will be reading of research, lab classrooms, discussion, reflection, and teacher exploration. I hope we have groups working simultaneously on topics such as questioning, innovation, how to #TeachLikeAPirate, collaborative strategies, growth mindset, learning targets, and much more!
- “Genius Hour” for students – http://www.geniushour.com/ – Other schools have this up and running and all I hear is the benefit for students. Need to find a way to make this a reality at our school
- “Innovation Station” for educators – My idea here is to create a professional learning network of people who get together and just talk about innovative ideas in education. It would be a group from various districts, in different roles, including a wide variety of thinkers, and would meet with essentially no agenda other than to share and develop innovative ideas.
Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to look foolish, to present an idea, or to share something with your unique perspective. Your idea could be the beginning of something great for one student, one classroom, one school, one district, or even bigger. Our students need us to consistently refine, adjust, create, and push ideas forward. Innovation is at your fingertips and on the tip of your tongue. Just jump in and explore the world of “what if’s.”