I am blessed to work in a school district that has done some really great work, but is constantly asking questions of where we can go. Over the last few days, having conversations with principal Karen Stride-Goudie and my superintendent, Tim Monds, I have been really thinking about the questions that are driving my work and focus right now. As I thought about these questions, I was reminded of Ewan McIntosh’s idea of “Problem Finders”, as opposed to simply “Problem Solvers” and how this connected to our own growth plans. In the past, my own professional growth plans have focused more on what I am trying to learn, as opposed to what questions I am going to focus on. This has really encouraged me to think about the questions and “why” they are important to me.
There are so many questions that I have, but if I want to be successful in my work, it is imperative that I narrow my focus to a few that will ultimately drive my work and learning. I encourage others to think about your own roles and think of three questions that may drive your work now or into the upcoming school year. The process I am choosing to use is to pose these three questions to drive my work and discuss why they are important. No matter what your position in education, this process can really help you focus on what you learn, and the more questions that are shared in an open network, the better we can all become. I encourage anyone to share a reflection through either a video or blog post (or whatever you are comfortable with) to the hashtag #3QuestionsEDU.
Mine questions to drive growth are the following:
- How do we a create a culture where the “innovator’s mindset” is the norm instead of the exception? (Or, how do we move from “pockets of innovation” to a “culture of innovation”?)
Why is this a focus?
What I have noticed in a lot of the work that I have done is that either the communications from the school or district level, really focuses on sharing the stories of a few educators and their classrooms, as opposed to being the norm in schools. Even doing visits in schools around the world, I am often asked to go visit specific teacher classrooms who are deemed “innovative”, as opposed to being able to randomly walk around and see that is the norm. I do not see this as an educator problem, but a leadership problem. What conditions must we create to really create an “innovative culture”?
- Within the current confines of school infrastructure, how do we create environments that promote innovative teaching and learning?
Why is this a focus?
The physical structure of schools, especially older buildings, does not necessarily create an environment that is conducive to innovative learning. When I think of the best “learning spaces” in the world, schools rarely pop into my mind. With that being said, it is impossible to think that we are going to tear down our buildings in the near future and be able to start from scratch. Instead of always asking people to think “outside of the box”, I am trying to think, how do we be innovative inside of it. There are many educators around the world have created innovative learning environments within the “traditional” spaces of the classroom. Environment is often as important as mindset, so how do we create spaces for kids that really promote innovative learning.
- How do we create professional learning opportunities that our staff are excited to be a part of on a consistent basis?
Why is this a focus?
When educators experience something different, they often create something different. Unfortunately, I do not see educators flocking to their own professional learning opportunities, unless there is an awesome lunch being served that day, This is a problem. We have to rethink what learning looks like for professionals so that they experience the learning that can happen with our students and that they see themselves as lifelong-innovative learners. To be a master teacher, you need to become a master learner, and this again falls upon the shoulders of leadership (leadership is from any position) in creating different experiences for staff, and ultimately helping them to create those learning experiences for themselves.
So there is a quick synopsis of the questions that are going to drive my thinking and keep me up at night. What are yours? I think this is a good practice whether you are a superintendent, teacher, secretary, or any other position, and hopefully this is something that could trickle down to students.
Please share your three questions to the hashtag #3QuestionsEDU in any form. I would love to see what is driving the learning of others.