Holidays are always a time to relax. They are also a time for reflection. On this Canadian Thanksgiving I reflect upon my work meetings from the past week as well as many other things. My thoughts are constantly being brought back to innovation as it pertains to education. As I reflect back I realize there are many pitfalls that can derail it in education, many of which can be avoided or, at least, mitigated.
It has been my experience that deviation from the status quo in education is not always the acceptable norm. Disruption and change in any grade level and any subject area are not always viewed in a positive light. It is one of the impediments to innovation in education.
As a result of the above, administration can also very reluctant to change. Some are very weary when it comes to risk and would prefer to keep things the same. When they approve change, they may also bear the wrath of those who do not buy in as well as the wrath if things do not work as anticipated. This can and will make administrators nervous.
There are also those in education that believe that nothing should proceed without consensus. Consensus is a great administration tool. It shows any workforce that administration will not proceed with ideas unless and until the group agrees, the group has input. But what happens if the group cannot agree? Cannot come to a consensus? Then what?
Innovation is disruptive. Innovation is not always popular and innovation can be risky. It goes contrary to most everything upon which the culture of education seems to be so reliant. So, from a teacher perspective, how can we avoid the pitfalls that derail or prevent innovation in education.
Consideration 1: Present a working model of your idea
Administrators need to be sure that you can take any innovative ideas that you have and put them into practice. The world is full of good ideas and good intentions. It's their execution that makes the difference. Be sure that when you present your innovative ideas to your administration that you can say "this is what I will be doing and this is how I will be doing it" and not "this is what I can do" or "this is what I think I can do". Be confident and prepared in what you will be doing.
Consideration 2: Be prepared to revise or abandon your idea
Even if your administrator likes your idea they need or know that if it is not working you have the professionalism to admit it, revise it or, totally abandon it. After all, it's not like you can run a simulation model when it comes to the education of children. Keep in mind new ideas experience bumps during implementation but you will need to distinguish between that and when an idea is genuinely not working.
Consideration 3: Keep your inner circle small
As I have stated earlier, the culture of education is not one that embraces change readily. Bringing your ideas to your entire group of colleagues can be quite discouraging. It can be the catalyst by which your idea never sees the light of day. However you need colleagues to bounce ideas off, and more importantly ones that will give you constructive criticism and not just negativity. Find those colleagues and include them in on your idea. Update them frequently on your progress. This also includes updating your administration.
Consideration 4: Inform students and obtain student feedback often
Since your idea will have a direct impact on your students they need to know why you are changing things up in their class. They will buy in to your idea if they understand why. Be sure that you get their opinions frequently as you implement your idea. They can let you know what needs to be revised, what works and what does not. Communication with your students is key.
Consideration 5: Innovation is more than technology purchase
In today's fiscal reality, many administrators know that monies are not there to purchase hardware and software for everyone. Moreover innovation is simply not the purchase of tablets or software. Rather is is what the technologies will support that is the innovation, not the technology in and of itself. For example a math teacher that wishes to increase the amount of formative assessment in their classroom may decide to use TI-Nspire Navigator quick polls and questions but the increase in formative assessment is the innovation or idea and not the equipment. Innovative ideas may be implemented using existing technologies and may not always require new purchases. Administrators are looking to ensure you have looked at all options to implement your idea, and so they should.
Consideration 6: Include Administration in the presentation to colleagues
There will come a time eventually when you will need to take your idea, after you have implemented it in your classroom, and present it to your colleagues. If you wish to have your idea implemented throughout your department, school, or district, you will need your administration next to you and involved in the presentation. Your colleagues will need to know that administration is supportive and their inclusion will help with that. It also lets your colleagues know that your administration has been involved throughout the process because they can speak on it.
I'm sure there are those who read this that will disagree and there will be those that could add even more considerations. In a future blog post I will write about what administration can do to facilitate innovation in education but for now it's time to go back to celebrating Thanksgiving :)