Takeaways, Reminders and a Challenge

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Dave Burgess – Teach Like a Pirate – speaking at SMYA

What’s the best part of a Conference?

Last week I attended and spoke at the SMYA conferenceDave Burgess – Teach Like a Pirate – was the keynote for the two day event. I was asked to do an introductory session on Leadership for Change  Thursday morning and then do a session for #saskedcamp. Although I really like the presentations and the sessions, for me the absolute best part of a conference is the networking and connecting. Since I began teaching, I have enjoyed mingling and talking with people, sometimes not going to a session as I was in a conversation with someone about a topic. Now that social media sites like Twitter and FB have allowed for continuous connection with others and the ability to meet people all the time, a conference is an opportunity to meet people I have known for a while for the first time. It also allows for a continuous conversation and ideas from the conference to be shared well after the speakers have jetted off to their next presentation and everyone has returned to the school. Yeah, I like listening to the keynote but, truly, I really like being able to share and learn with others in the informal gatherings that take place.

So what were the takeaways?

Takeaway 1 – Don’t be afraid to borrow and ‘steal’ from others as you work to improve what you are doing. Yesterday I wrote about innovating instead of imitating. In so many of the conversations over the two days, I was struck by how many teachers had not strayed off the trodden path of teaching to explore the wonderful wilderness. When they did begin discussing the ideas,  many were wondering how they could “do it like Dave”. As I suggested,

It might be flattering to have someone imitate you. You might feel it’s necessary to imitate a mentor. But creativity and innovation rarely happen through imitation. It might start with what someone else is doing but creativity and innovation use that as leaping off points.

The takeaway is that teachers need to use these starting points to boldly step out on their own, innovating and creating.

Takeaway 2 – Be willing to make mistakes. This is something that has been repeated over and over again but I believe it’s one of those “Do as I say not as I Do” things. I can tell students that making mistakes is all part of learning and growing but if, as a teacher, I don’t venture into the “this might not work” territory I limit my own opportunities to learn and demonstrate learning. I think it’s linked to a very deep storyline of ‘what it means to be a good teacher’ that is constantly played and replayed in conversations all over.

Takeaway 3 – There is no ‘right’ way to innovate and create. As a teacher, planning is important. Sometimes, however, the plan limits some of the opportunities, those ‘teachable moments’ that arise as I get caught up in ‘the plan’. I’m not advocating not planning. What I am suggesting is to look for opportunities to innovate and create as they happen. Sometimes this takes place in the planning but sometimes it happens as the plan unfolds and being ‘open’ allows me to abandon where I was going in order to strike off on a direction that is unfolds while teaching.

The Reminders

As I listened to Dave’s keynote and took in sessions I was reminded to two things.

Reminder 1 – Create an experience– this is important for students and teachers especially because it fosters relationships. Creating an experience with students helps to build a learning environment where students and teachers can become risk-takers helps students to build linkages between what they know and content. As teachers we can get caught up in ensuring we cover content but forget that a learning experience is more than just the content. As Dave illustrated in so many ways, creating an experience of learning helps to foster a connection for learners to the content.

Reminder 2 – Creativity and Innovation take practice – some people seem to be naturally creative, or so the story goes. Yet, as I watched people take part in a session about #saskedcamp, it was amazing to watch how people were willing to engage and enter into what was really something that was created on the spot. As I watched the participants share ideas and their own insights with others, I was reminded of how it’s easy to identify creativity in others but not in ourselves. People were mingling and sharing, asking questions and offering up suggestions without having had any real preparation time but building off what others were saying. Too often creativity and innovation is limited by some of the structures in place, like raise your hand and wait your turn, when being able to think and discuss ideas ignites our own ideas and creativity. The more we are able to take part in such situations and the more practice we  have, the better able we are to generate creative ideas and suggest ways to be innovative in the classroom and the school.

The Challenge

For me, the challenge is to trust that I am creative and I can innovate but I need to work at both. I need to be write down and explore ideas that I have and be willing to take risks to try different things. So, to challenge myself, I am going to challenge myself to blog regularly and explore ways that I can be creative and innovative myself.

My challenge, for anyone who reads this, is to commit to one action they can do to cultivate their creativity and one habit they can implement that will support their own creative endeavours.

Things to Think About

What is one idea you have taken away from a conference that you thought you would like to pursue but abandoned shortly after returning to the regular routines of school?

Why did you pursue this idea?

What would it take for you to move forward and implement this idea? What is your success plan?

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