Only educators know this fact: summer vacations are rarely a vacation that doesn’t involve some type of personalized professional development. Now that PD can come in the form of EdCamps, Twitter/Voxer chats, workshops, conferences, PatioPDs, and the like. For me, my PD is definitely personalized. I’m reading what I want, when I want, and talking/sharing my thoughts on Twitter and this blog. Summer is not only a time to recharge our batteries before the new school year but it’s also a time for us to explore what truly interests us…our passions.
Earlier this summer, I finally had a chance to read a book by one of my favorite educators – Carol Ann Tomlinson – Assessment and Student Success in a Differentiated Classroom. Assessment is an integral part of education whether we are assessing our students’ or our own learning. But what draws me to Tomlinson’s work is her understanding of how to differentiate the learning for our students. I saw many parallels in Tomlinson’s work to George Couros’ book The Innovator’s Mindset. In fact, what struck me as most interesting is how both authors repeatedly brought the main focus back to the individual (whether it was the teacher or student) and how empathy plays an instrumental role in giving the learner true agency in the learning/growing process.
The above sketchnotes is from Chapter 2 “The Innovator’s Mindset”. It sums up how we need to change our mindset if we want to truly create an innovative learning environment at our school site. Having said that, Couros’ pearls of wisdom are not just for the individual classroom – we are no longer teaching on an island, after all – but rather his suggestions apply to school sites and beyond. For those who are familiar with differentiation, the sketchnotes contain key ideas that apply when working with gifted learners as well. But what I really like is the phrase “Learn to innovate inside the box”. For many years now, we’ve been told to think outside of the box..and for some things that works but the reality is…is that in education we are bound by constraints, such as: time, grading periods, funding, ed policy, district initiatives, etc. Trying to think outside of the box works but when it comes time to actually apply those thoughts…well, constraints is what holds many of us back…which is why I really like the idea of learning to innovate inside the box. Working within our constraints. Figuring out creative solutions within our constraints. Looking at new ways of doing things within our constraints.
Our conversations at our school sites would be more fruitful if we keep in mind that we can learn how to innovate inside of the box. Couros is quick to point out that everyone (teachers and students) are not only learners but leaders in this process. However, in the case of Chapter 3 “Characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset”…the information is more for administrators and teacher leaders and not so much for students.
The prevalent idea from this chapter is that change is not only a process but one that must be transparent. Grassroots change agents can get the ball rolling but change needs to occur at all levels for it to truly be successful and sustainable. Leaders (administrators in this case) need to be out on the front-lines. Couros writes, “As leaders we cannot tell others they should be innovative while we continue to do the same thing” (p. 883). The same applies to teachers…we cannot tell our students that we want them to be creative and take risks if we are not willing to do the same. So you see, if we are to have an Innovator’s Mindset, it must happen across all levels. It’s a definitely mindset change…one that I’m happy to oblige.