In fact, every word and action sends a message. It tells children – or students or athletes – how to think about themselves. It can be a fixed mindset message that says: “You have permanent traits and I’m judging them.” Or it can be a growth mindset message that says: “You are a developing person and I am interested in your development”…
Although there are many different ways that we can innovate, sometimes I wonder if sometimes there is too narrow of a focus in education. Recently, it seems that innovation appears to be really focused on new apps and new tools and new technology when there is so much more to learning. I think of something like the use of block scheduling or innovative room design or innovations in assessment and reporting which aren’t necessarily related to a new technology or tool but new ways of using the knowledge we have about learning.
Teacher’s as Innovators
As an administrator, one of the things I really tried to do was visit teachers classrooms and observer what they were doing and then follow up with them about what I saw. Mostly because I would have wonderful conversations based on the wonderful things I saw taking place. In many cases, teachers were very innovative in their approaches to learning and engaging students but they didn’t really see what they were doing as innovative, they were just doing what needed to be done to help a student or a groups of students be successful.
Could it be that there is too much emphasis on making teachers be uniform in their approach that the innovation gets ignored or dismissed as being unproductive? Do to many educational leaders worry about what they read about what works and not take the time to see how teachers are being innovative right where they are or could be innovative with support?
As a teacher, I was always changing what I was doing. As a middle year homeroom teacher, it soon became apparent that no two days would be the same and no two classes were the same. I was always looking for new ways of doing things, from revamping spelling to expanding the way students responded to changing the way my room was configured and getting rid of desks, including my own. My best ideas came when I was talking with other teachers, working through a particular situation. Too often, teachers are required to follow strict policies and guidelines for their classrooms that inhibit innovation and “outside the box thinking”.
Working through the process for Design Thinking when I took a MOOC from Stanford, it provided me the opportunity to first-hand see how the process is so adaptable for any class and can be used in so many different learning situations. After that experience, I believe that many teachers have always had a growth mindset but the opportunity for innovation is often hampered and stifled. I believe school leaders can tap into this by adopting a growth mindset themselves and looking more closely at supporting teachers to be innovators.