Innovation in Education — What if…

“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.images.jpg
What if…

  • 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.download.jpg

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. 

  1. 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!
  2. “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
  3. “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.”

Hold the Door, Son

Two different events happened over the last week that had me thinking.

The first happened as my 10-year-old son and I were exiting a local golf course pro shop. He went out of his way to stop and hold the door for a couple walking in.  He did it kind of naturally and I was able to see it.  I gave him a quick fist bump and thanked him for thinking of others.

A few days later, the two of us were on our way into a gas station and a man was following behind us.  He was carrying some cans to turn in for deposit.  My son was behind me and had the chance to hold the door for the gentlemen, but didn’t.  I didn’t think much of it, other than I was disappointed, as we were in a hurry and I didn’t say anything.graduation-future-SB.jpg

Today, that had me thinking.  Why did he choose to do it one time and not the other? Had I appropriately modeled and positively reinforced it enough?  But above and beyond that, why was it so important to me?  Out of all the things we worry about and focus on as a parent, what is it about holding a door for a complete stranger that is so important to me?

I did some research.  I wanted to find out more about holding the door for others.  As usual, there was way more than I needed.  I found out that around the 1600’s doors were often held for women and that was more due to the wardrobe they had on.  I’m not going to get too far into the chivalry aspect, although I’ll take any chance I can get to teach my son to respect women.  I learned that some people think 14 feet is the appropriate length away from the door that you should offer to hold it for someone.  OK, all of that was more than I needed.

It’s so important for me because the kid (or adult for that matter) who holds the door carries the mindset I want the kids at my home, and the 340 kids at our school, to have at all times.

  • It’s the mindset of always thinking about helping others
  • It’s the mindset that I’m a very small part of this big Earth
  • It’s saying to someone, without saying anything, you matter to me and even though I don’t know you, I’ll do something to help you
  • It’s the mindset that small things matter, especially if done over and over
  • It’s the giving mindset, instead of the taking

So, what next?  Well, instead of giving my son positive affirmation for whether or not he catches a touchdown or gets a sack this weekend, I’ll do a better job focusing on something under his control.  Something that positively impacts others.  I’ll do a better job of letting him know why it’s important to me and needs to be important to him.  I will also model it as consistently as possible.  As parents, we want all kinds of things for our kids.  Right now, I just want my son to be the kid who always holds the door.download-1.jpg