Category Archives: innovators mindset

#AGreatTeacherIs…

I saw a post on Twitter talking about removing the word “teaching” and simply replacing it with “learning”. I have to admit, I cringed at the thought.  That being said, I do believe a great teacher starts from the view point of a learner, not the teacher.  This is something that is a needed shift in the traditional norm of education. Starting from the needs of the learner, not the teacher.

That being said, with all of the change that is being thrust upon us so quickly in the world, great teachers are needed more than ever.  I asked the following question on Twitter:

Here are my thoughts:

A Great Teacher Is…

 

Someone who is a relationships builder.

Someone who shapes minds.

Someone who empowers learners.

Someone who cares about their learners.

Someone who inspires.

Someone who is a leader AND a follower, and knows when to go into each role.

Someone who knows when to stand in front and then knows when to gets out of the way.

Someone who is wise and shares their wisdom with others.

Someone who listens.

Someone who is continuously learning and growing.

Someone who shares what was, but inspires dreams of what could be.

Someone who both embraces and creates change.

Someone who is a constant innovator.

Someone who impacts people long after their time with them.

A great teacher is often all of these things and so much more.

P.S. Nothing here about test scores…

As I said earlier, teachers are needed more now than ever.  Change will be the only constant that we will deal with in our world, and it is happening at a rate faster than ever.  Educators should not only empower the next generation to embrace change, but will develop those who create it, making the world a better place.

Share your blog posts or tweets to share what you think #AGreatTeacherIs.

Fifty years ago

 

Somebody, somewhere, is doing the same thing you say you can’t do.

“This doesn’t fit within our infrastructure.”

Have you ever heard that from your IT department? This is a longer way of saying “no”.

Yet in our world today, with shifts happening faster than we can keep up with, this seems to be a response that is no longer acceptable.

For example, let’s say your IT department follows these four questions for making decisions for your organization:

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 7.22.47 AM

If we deem this learning as crucial for our students, the “won’t work for infrastructure” comment does not help us move forward. It is a dead end.

The best IT leaders provide options, not obstacles.  Sometimes it will cost you more money, more time, and an adjustment in our thinking and the way we do “business”, but it can always be done.  Again, it is our thinking that will help us move forward, not the technology.

As I always say, somebody, somewhere, is doing the same thing you say you can’t do; they are just finding a way.

Is a “Growth Mindset” Enough?

The world only cares about—and pays off on—what you can do with what you know (and it doesn’t care how you learned it). (2)

The quote above from a Thomas Friedman article on what Google looks for employees is one that has stuck with me.  It was a huge reason why I wrote “The Innovator’s Mindset” in the first place.

Yet this post was sparked by some conversations as well as this blog post by Adam Schoenbart comparing my book to E.D. Hirsch’s book from 1987, “Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know”.  Here is one of the passages from Adam’s blog:

Couros argues that “We are spending so much time telling our students about what they can’t do that we have lost focus on what we can do” (p. 7), to which Hirsh would counter: “Our children can learn this information only by being taught it” (p. 14). What and how seem to be at odds in this dynamic. Hirsh’s views on the limited potential of students are definitely problematic, writing, “Left to itself, a child will not grow into a thriving creature” (p. 31). Really!?!

While Hirsh wants students to simply memorize 150-pages-or-so of definitive knowledge and ideas, Corous seeks to expand worldviews: “Innovation demands that our students learn the basics, but how we go about teaching them may look different than in years past. The basics are crucial, but they cannot be the only things we teach our students” (p. 163). What we teach our students is crucial to both authors as information is key in both texts.

Adam goes on to wonder what Hirsch’s viewpoints would be almost 30 years after this book where information is abundant:

Again for Hirsh, it’s about information first and foremost. With limited flexibility, he wants to tell America what to learn, to which Couros would likely respond: “You’ll learn that to truly empower people, there must be a shift from telling to listening” (p. 7). One can’t help but wonder how Hirsh’s views may have evolved in the new reality of technology and access to information.

Carol Dweck’s “Mindset” is one book that really pushed my thinking over the past few years.  The language we use when working with our students is crucial in how we help them develop.  In this post sharing 25 quotes from the book, here are some that stuck out to me:

Test scores and measures of achievement tell you where a student is, but they don’t tell you where a student could end up. – Carol Dweck

Just because some people can do something with little or no training, it doesn’t mean that others can’t do it (and sometimes do it even better) with training. – Carol Dweck

Wow, that’s a really good score. You must have worked really hard. – Carol Dweck

What did you learn today? What mistake did you make that taught you something? What did you try hard at today? – Carol Dweck

Although I am just sharing a bit of the book, these quotes scream “SCHOOL!” to me, not necessarily empowered learning.

Take the last quote shared in the group above.

What did you learn today? What mistake did you make that taught you something? What did you try hard at today? – Carol Dweck

What if it was changed to this?

What did you learn today? What ideas do you have moving forward because of what you learned? What will you create from this?

Both quotes are focused on learning, but in one case, the learning is extended.  This quote from “The Center for Accelerated Learning” shares the importance of creation for learning:

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 8.00.02 PM

 

So let’s go back to the title of this post; Is a “Growth Mindset” Enough?

My short answer (obviously) is no.  That doesn’t mean it is irrelevant, but I see it as more of a continuum.  Knowledge and information are crucial to creation; they are not separated.  But my hope is to go beyond kids being “good at school” and the learning that we decide is important for them.

It is about going further with learning, to help kids (and ourselves) become creators, inventors, and innovators.

A simple analogy to explain mindset from my book:

Let’s take the simple example of playing the piano to compare the two ideas. With a fixed mindset, the learner doesn’t believe he or she has the ability to play the piano. With a growth mindset, the learner believes that, with hard work and practice, the opportunity to play the piano is within the realm of his or her ability. That belief leads the learner to try and, ultimately, grow.

The innovator’s mindset takes the growth mindset a step further by focusing on using one’s ability to learn to play the piano to create music.

As I go to many sessions at conferences, I often wonder if the focus is on how to help student’s become strong at “school”, or to truly empower them as learners and creators.  Do we want students to learn math or be able to do things with the math they have learned?  As Friedman states, what we do with what we know is what will separate us today in a world where information is abundant.

4 Great Ted Talks That Will Challenge Your Thinking

Rita

Getting a message from a friend on Facebook, she had mentioned Daniel Pink’s book “Drive”, and it reminded me of how much his Ted Talk really made an impact on my learning and thinking.  There are some really good Ted Talks (or TedX Talks), but to be honest, there are only a few that really changed my thinking.  Dan Pink led me to really rethink the notion of awards in school, and I wrote about it extensively.

Below, I am going to share some of the ones that have made the biggest impact on me, and why, starting with Dan Pink:

1. Dan Pink – The Puzzle of Motivation

What I loved about this talk, was not only the content, but the “lawyerly” approach to it. Pink’s final thoughts resonate:

There is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does. Here is what science knows. One: Those 20th century rewards, those motivators we think are a natural part of business, do work, but only in a surprisingly narrow band of circumstances. Two: Those if-then rewards often destroy creativity. Three: The secret to high performance isn’t rewards and punishments, but that unseen intrinsic drive– the drive to do things for their own sake. The drive to do things cause they matter.

And here’s the best part. We already know this. The science confirms what we know in our hearts. So, if we repair this mismatch between science and business, if we bring our motivation, notions of motivation into the 21st century, if we get past this lazy, dangerous, ideology of carrots and sticks, we can strengthen our businesses, we can solve a lot of those candle problems, and maybe, maybe — we can change the world.

Talk to any administrators in a school, and they will talk about the importance of collaboration.  Walk into their schools though, and the walls are often focus on external drivers to acknowledge the “best” (sports awards, honour rolls, etc.).  This is a great talk to push your thinking, but also to discuss with staff, if you are looking to challenge the traditional notion of awards, and the revamped model of “badges”.

2.  Rita F. Pierson – Every Kids Needs a Champion

Rita F. Pierson passed away shortly after this talk, yet her legacy will live on forever because of this talk that is captured, that is simply perfection. She is funny, heartwarming, while challenging thinking in less than 8 minutes. As a speaker, this is a talk that I aspire to.

Her words are a great reminder to every teacher on why they are teachers.

Can we stand to have more relationships? Absolutely. Will you like all your children? Of course not.

And you know your toughest kids are never absent.

Never. You won’t like them all, and the tough ones show up for a reason. It’s the connection. It’s the relationships. So teachers become great actors and great actresses, and we come to work when we don’t feel like it, and we’re listening to policy that doesn’t make sense, and we teach anyway. We teach anyway, because that’s what we do.

Teaching and learning should bring joy. How powerful would our world be if we had kids who were not afraid to take risks, who were not afraid to think, and who had a champion? Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.

Can you remember starting off your career and someone giving you the advice of “don’t smile ’til Christmas”?  I will take Rita’s approach any day.

An absolutely perfect talk for education.

3. Barry Schwartz – The Paradox of Choice

Ever go to those sessions at a tech conference with “100 Tools in 30 minutes”. This made me rethink their value and how they deeply hamper organizations moving forward. Too much choice can be debilitating:

All of this choice has two effects, two negative effects on people. One effect, paradoxically, is that it produces paralysis, rather than liberation. With so many options to choose from, people find it very difficult to choose at all.

I’ll give you one very dramatic example of this: a study that was done of investments in voluntary retirement plans. A colleague of mine got access to investment records from Vanguard, the gigantic mutual-fund company of about a million employees and about 2,000 different workplaces. And what she found is that for every 10 mutual funds the employer offered, rate of participation went down two percent. You offer 50 funds — 10 percent fewer employees participate than if you only offer five. Why? Because with 50 funds to choose from, it’s so damn hard to decide which fund to choose, that you’ll just put it off until tomorrow. And then tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, and of course tomorrow never comes.

Understand that not only does this mean that people are going to have to eat dog food when they retire because they don’t have enough money put away, it also means that making the decision is so hard that they pass up significant matching money from the employer. By not participating, they are passing up as much as 5,000 dollars a year from the employer, who would happily match their contribution.

So paralysis is a consequence of having too many choices.

Simply put…do less, better.

A mantra many schools need to embrace.

4. Kate Simonds – I’m 17

Simply put, this is probably my favourite Ted Talk in education, and the only one listed that is a “TedX”. I truly believe it is a must watch for every educator, and what is most powerful, is that these are the words from a student in school at the time.

In it, Kate really challenges what we are saying we want in education, and what we actually do:

Look at our education system; as students, we have no say on what we learn or how we learn it, yet we’re expected to absorb it all, take it all in, and be able to run the world someday. We’re expected to raise our hands to use the restroom, then three months later be ready to go to college or have a full time job, support ourselves, and live on our own. It’s not logical.

Compliance does not foster innovation. Kate challenges this idea in a thought provoking, and truly eloquent way.

When you think of your favourite talks, which ones have really challenged and pushed you? Which ones made you do something different?  Would love if you would share your favourites in the comments or a blog post of your own.

4 Great Ted Talks That Will Challenge Your Thinking

Rita

Getting a message from a friend on Facebook, she had mentioned Daniel Pink’s book “Drive”, and it reminded me of how much his Ted Talk really made an impact on my learning and thinking.  There are some really good Ted Talks (or TedX Talks), but to be honest, there are only a few that really changed my thinking.  Dan Pink led me to really rethink the notion of awards in school, and I wrote about it extensively.

Below, I am going to share some of the ones that have made the biggest impact on me, and why, starting with Dan Pink:

1. Dan Pink – The Puzzle of Motivation

What I loved about this talk, was not only the content, but the “lawyerly” approach to it. Pink’s final thoughts resonate:

There is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does. Here is what science knows. One: Those 20th century rewards, those motivators we think are a natural part of business, do work, but only in a surprisingly narrow band of circumstances. Two: Those if-then rewards often destroy creativity. Three: The secret to high performance isn’t rewards and punishments, but that unseen intrinsic drive– the drive to do things for their own sake. The drive to do things cause they matter.

And here’s the best part. We already know this. The science confirms what we know in our hearts. So, if we repair this mismatch between science and business, if we bring our motivation, notions of motivation into the 21st century, if we get past this lazy, dangerous, ideology of carrots and sticks, we can strengthen our businesses, we can solve a lot of those candle problems, and maybe, maybe — we can change the world.

Talk to any administrators in a school, and they will talk about the importance of collaboration.  Walk into their schools though, and the walls are often focus on external drivers to acknowledge the “best” (sports awards, honour rolls, etc.).  This is a great talk to push your thinking, but also to discuss with staff, if you are looking to challenge the traditional notion of awards, and the revamped model of “badges”.

2.  Rita F. Pierson – Every Kids Needs a Champion

Rita F. Pierson passed away shortly after this talk, yet her legacy will live on forever because of this talk that is captured, that is simply perfection. She is funny, heartwarming, while challenging thinking in less than 8 minutes. As a speaker, this is a talk that I aspire to.

Her words are a great reminder to every teacher on why they are teachers.

Can we stand to have more relationships? Absolutely. Will you like all your children? Of course not.

And you know your toughest kids are never absent.

Never. You won’t like them all, and the tough ones show up for a reason. It’s the connection. It’s the relationships. So teachers become great actors and great actresses, and we come to work when we don’t feel like it, and we’re listening to policy that doesn’t make sense, and we teach anyway. We teach anyway, because that’s what we do.

Teaching and learning should bring joy. How powerful would our world be if we had kids who were not afraid to take risks, who were not afraid to think, and who had a champion? Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.

Can you remember starting off your career and someone giving you the advice of “don’t smile ’til Christmas”?  I will take Rita’s approach any day.

An absolutely perfect talk for education.

3. Barry Schwartz – The Paradox of Choice

Ever go to those sessions at a tech conference with “100 Tools in 30 minutes”. This made me rethink their value and how they deeply hamper organizations moving forward. Too much choice can be debilitating:

All of this choice has two effects, two negative effects on people. One effect, paradoxically, is that it produces paralysis, rather than liberation. With so many options to choose from, people find it very difficult to choose at all.

I’ll give you one very dramatic example of this: a study that was done of investments in voluntary retirement plans. A colleague of mine got access to investment records from Vanguard, the gigantic mutual-fund company of about a million employees and about 2,000 different workplaces. And what she found is that for every 10 mutual funds the employer offered, rate of participation went down two percent. You offer 50 funds — 10 percent fewer employees participate than if you only offer five. Why? Because with 50 funds to choose from, it’s so damn hard to decide which fund to choose, that you’ll just put it off until tomorrow. And then tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, and of course tomorrow never comes.

Understand that not only does this mean that people are going to have to eat dog food when they retire because they don’t have enough money put away, it also means that making the decision is so hard that they pass up significant matching money from the employer. By not participating, they are passing up as much as 5,000 dollars a year from the employer, who would happily match their contribution.

So paralysis is a consequence of having too many choices.

Simply put…do less, better.

A mantra many schools need to embrace.

4. Kate Simonds – I’m 17

Simply put, this is probably my favourite Ted Talk in education, and the only one listed that is a “TedX”. I truly believe it is a must watch for every educator, and what is most powerful, is that these are the words from a student in school at the time.

In it, Kate really challenges what we are saying we want in education, and what we actually do:

Look at our education system; as students, we have no say on what we learn or how we learn it, yet we’re expected to absorb it all, take it all in, and be able to run the world someday. We’re expected to raise our hands to use the restroom, then three months later be ready to go to college or have a full time job, support ourselves, and live on our own. It’s not logical.

Compliance does not foster innovation. Kate challenges this idea in a thought provoking, and truly eloquent way.

When you think of your favourite talks, which ones have really challenged and pushed you? Which ones made you do something different?  Would love if you would share your favourites in the comments or a blog post of your own.

Innovating Inside of the Box

I loved this post from Seth Godin’s blog:

The problem with complaining about the system

…is that the system can’t hear you. Only people can.

And the problem is that people in the system are too often swayed to believe that they have no power over the system, that they are merely victims of it, pawns, cogs in a machine bigger than themselves.

Alas, when the system can’t hear you, and those who can believe they have no power, nothing improves.

Systems don’t mistreat us, misrepresent us, waste our resources, govern poorly, support an unfair status quo and generally screw things up–people do.

If we care enough, we can make it change.

In “The Innovator’s Mindset“, one of the ideas that I have shared is the notion of “innovating inside of the box”:

Let’s not kid ourselves. In education, especially the public sector, schools are not overloaded with funding. Innovating in our schools requires a different type of thinking, one that doesn’t focus on ideas that are “outside of the box” but those that allow us to be innovative despite budgetary constraints. In other words, we need to learn to innovate inside the box.

This is not limited to budgetary constraints.  It is in dealing with bad bosses, traditions that may be past their expiration date, policies that seem to trump common sense, or a myriad of other things.  We have a lot more power to create the solutions we need, than we give ourselves credit for.

This is a pretty powerful image.

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 6.08.08 PM

If you want to wait for others to make the changes that you see as necessary in education, you might be waiting forever.  It is crucial to do what we can within the “system” or the “box”, but it takes changing our thinking first.

“Threshold Model of Collective Behaviour”

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 5.01.30 PM

As a basketball fan, I was fascinated listening to this podcast by Malcolm Gladwell (you can read the whole transcript here as well), discussing Wilt Chamberlain and his poor free throw shooting.  Wilt Chamberlain is known as one of the best players in NBA history, yet is also considered one of the worst free throw shooters to ever play the game.

Rick Barry though, a great player in his own right, was one of the best free throw shooters of all time.  The reason why Rick Barry is brought up though is not only because of how good of a free throw shooter he was, but because he was so good, doing it in a way that is so unique.  His technique was to throw the ball between his legs (which he says is a much more natural motion).  This is otherwise known as the “granny shot”.

Rick Barry shooting between the legs, or known in many basketball circles as "the granny shot".

Rick Barry shooting between the legs, or known in many basketball circles as “the granny shot”.

What I found fascinating about the podcast is that even though Wilt, and so many others, would have benefitted from this technique, the stigma that came with it, made them choose a way that was actually worse.  Gladwell references sociologist Mark Granovetter, and his idea of “Threshold Model of Collective Behaviour”.  He describes it as the following:

Now, what does Granovetter mean by that word, “threshold”? A belief is an internal thing. It’s a position we’ve taken in our head or in our heart.

But unlike beliefs, thresholds are external. They’re about peer pressure. Your threshold is the number of people who have to do something before you join in.

Granovetter makes two crucial arguments. The first is that thresholds and beliefs sometimes overlap. But a lot of the time, they don’t.

When your teenage son is driving 100 miles an hour at midnight with three of his friends in your Toyota Camry, it’s not because he believes that driving 100 miles per hour is a good idea. In that moment, his beliefs are irrelevant. His behaviour is guided by his threshold.

Ultimately, someone in education with a “low threshold”, is more open to going with the group, where as someone with a “high threshold”, is more likely to do it their own way.  I found this fascinating in connection with opposite ends of the spectrum in education.  The teacher that may be reluctant to go beyond “traditional” ways of teaching, while others around them might do the same.  But on the other end, someone who is more open to being extremely forward thinking in an environment that is steeped in traditional ways of thinking, might also have a high threshold.  What is important is to recognize the culture of the group, as well as the individual.

But the one part that really fascinated me about the podcast was an assertion that Gladwell made about Rick Barry’s inability to move others to do it his way, when it has been proven to work better than what you typically see in a basketball game.  In one word, it was Barry’s “likability”, or lack thereof.

And I’d read all that stuff about him– half the players disliked him, the other half hated him. And I kind of braced myself before I met him. But I liked him.

Or maybe it makes more sense to say, that I really admired him. Because I finally understood what someone like Rick Barry stands for. It’s perfectionism.

And what is a perfectionist? Someone who puts the responsibility of mastering the task at hand ahead of all social considerations, who would rather be right than liked. And how can you be good at something complex, how can you reach your potential if you don’t have a little bit of that inside you?

This idea is so crucial in terms of leadership.  There are people that I am sure we have encountered that are absolutely brilliant in the fields of education (or elsewhere), yet their ideas seem to take a long time for others to gravitate towards, because they seem to be more concerned with being “right” than being “liked”.  You are probably thinking of someone like that at this moment.  Now, doing the right thing can be hard sometimes and could make you enemies, but we have to realize the importance of building relationships in helping move people forward.

As an example, after speaking to a group where one of my good friends was in the audience, I asked him what he thought.  He shared that he really loved what I talked about, but the first 10 minutes I spent too much time sharing my own story.  What I told him is that he knew me well, and so he didn’t need that, but with the majority of the group meeting me for the first time, I needed that time to build rapport.  Simply put, people don’t buy what you are saying, until they buy you. That made sense to him.

In our pursuit to continuously push the importance of developing something much more powerful in  today’s classroom, we have to remember that relationships are crucial in helping move people forward.    Stephen Covey talks about this so eloquently in “The Speed of Trust”:

When trust is low, in a company or in a relationship, it places a hidden “tax” on every transaction: every communication, every interaction, every strategy, every decision is taxed, bringing speed down and sending costs up. My experience is that significant distrust doubles the cost of doing business and triples the time it takes to get things done.

By contrast, individuals and organizations that have earned and operated with high trust experience the opposite of a tax—a “dividend” that is like a performance multiplier, enabling them to succeed in their communications, interactions, and decisions and to move with incredible speed. A recent Watson Wyatt study showed that high-trust companies outperform low-trust companies by nearly 300 percent!”

If you want to move people to places of discomfort, we must realize that the time spent building those relationships should not be seen as an expenditure, but as a necessary investment.

The #InnovatorsMindsetMOOC (September 2016)

This is an idea that I have been passing around in my head…One of my goals is to develop “The Innovator’s Mindset” as the norm in our schools, but that can mean different things to different people.  By bringing people together, pushing our thinking, and creating something with what we learn, I hope that this is a chance for people to go “beyond the book”.  Check out the initial draft below (or this google document).

Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 1.26.50 PM

The #InnovatorsMindsetMOOC (Coming September 2016)

bit.do/InnovatorsMindsetMOOC

This is a rough draft of a project that I want to run starting in the middle of September.  This would be centred around the book, “The Innovator’s Mindset”, but would go beyond simply a book study.  The hope of this project is the following:

  • Help to further innovation and the notion of “The Innovator’s Mindset” in schools across the world.
  • Build a global community that can support the pursuit of innovation in education.
  • Encourage participants to go beyond reading the book, and creating something because of it.
  • Develop communities within your own school

Initial Plan

The initial plan is to have a weekly Google Hangout that will be available both live and after the fact, with different guests to discuss “innovation in education”, while also taking participant questions.  During each week, participants would be encouraged to blog their own reflection either using prompts that are provided, or going into their own spaces.  This creates a great opportunity for people to share their own reflections in different formats.  Always wanted to create a blog? This is the time.  Want to start a YouTube channel or podcast?  Here is a great opportunity to not only create it, but share it with a global audience.

At the end of the time of the project, participants will be encouraged to share some type of final “project” or “reflection” based on something that they have done because of the book.  These will be collected and shared with others as well.

Spaces Used

A Facebook group, Twitter hashtag (used for a slow chat), will be spaces that will be led by the moderators.  Other spaces can be developed and shared by participants (Voxer groups, Google Plus Communities, etc.) to use that are most beneficial to their own learning, but we still want to develop the initial spaces.

Dates:

Dates Topic
September 17-24 Introduction
September 24-October 1 Part 1: Innovation in Education
October 1 -8 Part 2:  Laying the Groundwork
October 8-15 Part 3: Unleashing Talent
October 15-22 Part 4: Concluding Thoughts
October 22-29 Project Presentation

What you will need to participate:

  1. A copy of the book.
  2. A blog or space to share longer thoughts.  This could be, but not limited to, a YouTube Channel, collection of Google Docs, Medium Page.
  3. Suggested that you can connect on both Facebook or Twitter, although one is sufficient if it becomes overwhelming.

Sign-Up

As this idea is still in “beta”, I am interested in how many people would be interested in signing up, and where you are from.  The hope is to make this a truly global opportunity.  

If interested, please sign up here, and we will send an email notification when the group is officially about to begin.

Moving Forward

Participants are encouraged to share with administrators and colleagues in order to aid in creating innovative environments within their own schools.  This can help in creating a space both online and offline to further discussions within your own context.

The more of the opportunity that participants get to connect both globally and locally, the more beneficial it is for our students.

Thanks for your interest! The document is open to comments so please feel free to add any suggestions to make this a great experience for yourself and others.

“…permeate every pore of the school”

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After writing a book, I am finding myself reading the books of others and wishing I would have caught some of their quotes to add to mine, to strengthen my argument. In a really great book by Chris Lehmann and Zac Chase, titled “Building School 2.0: How to Create the Schools We Need“, this quote on “vision” really resonated:

When you have a vision for what a school can be, it has to permeate every pore of the school. Every process, every interaction, every system needs to be held to that process. And although there are pieces of the school that may be only tangential to the mission, it is important to go through the process of examining how the core vision of the school affects each part of the school.

This quote reminded me of a conversation that I was having the other day about “missions and visions” in schools.  How often do you see that the school district has one “mission”, with each school having their own vision, and even teams such as the “curriculum department”, “tech team”, etc., having a unique “vision” for the work that they do?  If we are to have so many separate visions, it is not only not probable that it will “permeate every pore of the school”; it is impossible.

In “The Innovator’s Mindset”, I talk about how this “visioning” process was so important in bringing our community together:

In 2011, the leaders at Parkland School Division, a district of twenty-two schools located west of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, recognized the need for a shift in their thinking. Part of that shift began with involving the entire community in the process of developing a new vision and mission for learning. In addition to staff and students, the leaders consulted with parents and business leaders to not only engage them in the process but also empower them. Not everyone could attend the meetings, of course. With a school community of 10,000 students, it is hard to bring everyone together face-to-face, but technology ensured that everyone had the opportunity to share their thoughts. Individuals and groups offered input on what they saw  as necessary for students—both for the present and for their future. Words like creativity, innovation, and exploration came up repeatedly; the word compliance did not.

Empowerment does not happen without ownership. As we adopted one “vision” for all, this did not mean that everyone did the same thing. It meant that there were different pathways to get to the same ultimate vision, but it also meant that the conversations were different.  Instead of asking, “What should our vision be?”, schools and departments would ask, “What does this vision mean to us and how do we make it come to life?”  For this vision to “permeate every pore of the school”, we needed to not only create, but we needed to also break it down, struggle with it, challenge ideas, and ultimately bring it to life while constantly revisiting it, and think about it terms of every person of our organization.  This helps people to see that no matter where they are, their contributions are serving the purpose of the entire organization, not just in the areas that they directly work.

Only then will you see this vision embodied in all places, not just some places.

Finding and Unleashing Talent

I was having an interesting conversation with a principal recently, and she had wondered how some teachers would deal with “change” that liked to control every aspect of their classroom.  What she had shared that this was an educator that was open about the need for control in the classroom.

My response was to ask the educator if they would think they would thrive under a principal that was a micromanager.  The principal almost laughed because she knew what the answer would be (as did I), but then she realized my point.  If an adult wouldn’t thrive in that environment, why would a student?

This is not to say that kids do not need more guidance, but if we try to control every aspect of what they do in their learning, will they a) thrive during their time in their classroom, and more importantly, b) would they learn to thrive after their time in the classroom?

Individualizing education and starting with empathy for those we serve is where innovative teaching and learning begins.  Let’s continue to look at empowering our students, while finding and unleashing the talent of each child we serve.

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