This is the second post in my continued participation in the Innovator’s Mindset Massive Open Online Course (IMMOOC). My first, from last week, can be found here.
I’ll admit, I was overwhelmed by the amount of content generated by this Online Course last week. The word “Massive” is a fitting moniker. There were thousands of educators participating through Blog, Twitter and Facebook posts throughout the week. I was fortunate to be available to view the Live YouTube chat featuring Jo Boaler & George Curous on September 25th while concurrently following an active Twitter feed around the global hashtag #IMMOOC & my own board’s hashtag #IMMOOCTVDSB. It was impossible to keep up with all of it. I did, however reflect on this sound bite from Joan Boaler as an important reminder.
This week, I continued to re-read the book, with an eye toward the following questions that were presented to our group:
- How can you create opportunities for innovation in your leadership? In your teaching? In your learning?
- If you were to start a school from scratch, what would it look like?
- Take one of the “Characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset” (see below) and write an example of how you exemplify it in your own work.
I am going to start with the final prompt and answer it simply. I will then use the other two prompts to support that answer. The characteristic of the Innovator’s Mindset I want to look at is #5 - the ability to observe.
How can you create opportunities for innovation in your leadership? In your teaching? In your learning?
My new role as an Instructional Coach has taken me out of the conventional classroom setting. Although I am enjoying new opportunities, I miss the familiarity of a high energy Grade 5 classroom. I miss the daily opportunities to spark excitement, support calculated risk, foster meaningful inquiry and promote creativity. Last year, I was genuinely enriched by the progress my students and I made as we embraced a new approach to tackling curriculum. Bolstered by Trevor MacKenzie’s wonderful book “Diving into Inquiry” and strengthened by numerous professional development opportunities, I had the confidence to take chances.
I want to apply this approach to my new position. However, I know this is going to be a challenge. I am still acclimatizing and building relationships. Intuitively, I recognize that both leaders and innovators need to begin as observers. That has been a challenge for me. I am so excited to get things rolling. Much like the experience George Couros details in Chapter 1, “I took on this position knowing it was a bit of a risk” and, for now I need to learn about the constants before I start to push for change. I guess, borrowing his analogy, I need to spend my time in ground school before “trying to build an plane in the air.”
If you were to start a school from scratch, what would it look like?
When I first read this question, I reflected on the two new schools that were built in my board over the past year. I was fortunate to be able to follow the progress on Twitter and I knew that all the hallmarks of a modern education institution (flexible seating, STEAM-EDU, Project Based Learning, GAFE, etc.) were being embraced by the administrative team that was chosen to open them. In fact, had I not been successful in my application to be an Instructional Coach, I would have applied to teach at Sir Arthur Currie Elementary last May.
As I reflected further, the monumental undertaking that must be involved in starting a school from scratch became overwhelming. I mean, it is easy to point out the flaws in any new undertaking - particularly one as important as a school. Shamefully, I admit that, as a member of a staff who experienced the challenges of a school’s expansion, I have willingly participated in the criticisms...
- “Why didn’t they do that?”
- “Did they not know that a basketball court needs to be wider?”
- “Couldn’t they have put more plugs along the back wall for the computers?”
- “Really, two new bathrooms for over 400 new students?”
Like the proverbial "Monday Morning Quarterback" or “Armchair General” it is easy to see the faults when given the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. So, I guess I would do everything I could to ameliorate the complaints - with the recognition that mistakes will be made and overcome. I would begin by assembling the best possible team I could find. People with experience, foresight, passion, wisdom and smarts. I would draw from as many qualified sources as I could find to make the best possible decisions. Once again, I find myself recognizing the same truth I identified when responding to the first prompt.
Innovators need to be observers first.
I’ll think about that this week - as I continue to try to build relationships through staff room conversations.