Category Archives: Leading a Learning Community

Learning and Leadership

In the day of any conference, the conversations are fast and furious, and I can sometimes get overwhelmed by so much flying at me at once.  I do my best to spend time connecting with people, but sometimes the conversations that are had don’t stick with me at first, but resonate with me after I have had some time to decompress.

One of the things that has stuck with me from one event, was a person in an administrative position, approaching me and saying, “after I listened to you and thought about what you were saying, I realized, I am the barrier that is holding us back.”  I am not sure what her position was, but I was amazed by the honesty of her reflection.  She also shared that she did not want to be that person anymore, and was going to try and create different opportunities for those that she served.  It was a humbling conversation that has really been stuck in my brain.  I honestly can’t stop thinking about it because of the courage that she had in sharing that or even being able to say it out loud.

Something I have been saying lately in some conversations I have been having is the following:

“There are people in this room, no matter how compelling of evidence or ideas that I have shared, or the experiences that I have tried to create, will do nothing different tomorrow.  Are you that person?”

It is a comment meant to challenge and push people out of their comfort zone, while also imploring them to reflect on their learning.  I have learned that ideas and my own thinking changes over time, and by being open to challenge and growth in my learning, is how I model what I hope to see in others.  I am never expecting someone to do exactly what I have shared or even not challenge my thoughts, but I am hoping they take action and ownership on how they can move forward.

But with that being said, I am hoping that people not only think about what they have learned, but also how their learning impacts others.  Every single person involved in education is in some type of leadership position in the way that we serve the needs of others, whether it is students or adults, and our willingness or lack thereof to grow, impacts not only ourselves, but others.  This one administrator reminded me of that in her brave way she shared her self-realization.  The willingness to be able to reflect and to identify how your actions and growth are affecting others, is a powerful trait of a leader who wants to make a difference.

“In education, our learning not only impacts our own growth, but the growth of others that we serve.”

 

Resilience and Innovation in Education

“The person who says it cannot be done, should not interrupt the person doing it.” Chinese Proverb

Oh if it were that easy!

The reality of the work of someone with the “innovator’s mindset” is that the work is going to be questioned because it is something new and can often make those around them uncomfortable. Comments like “let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater” are often disguises of a fear of moving forward. If you really think about change, many people are comfortable with a known average, than the possibility of an unknown great.  With that in mind, to be innovative, we will have to focus on moving forward even when there is risk of failure and being criticized involved.

Trying something new is always going to be up for a challenge, and I have watched so many struggle when that challenge becomes public.  It is not about ignoring the naysayer (sometimes you should really listen to them), but about having the conviction to push forward and do something that you believe will make a difference.  As I listened to the first episode of the podcast “Startup”, one of the things they talked about is the importance of passion and conviction to become successful.

If you don’t believe in your idea, why would anyone else?

One thing that I have learned from my experience as an educator is to always focus on the question “what is best for kids” when thinking about creating new ideas to further your work in schools.  If you are trying something new in the context of learning, and this question is at the forefront of how you make your decisions, you are doing the right thing.

The other pushback you may face from trying something different is actually from the students.  As stated earlier, many of our students are so used to “school” that something outside the lines of what they know terrifies them just as much as any adult.  If school has become a “checklist” for our students (through doing rubrics, graduation requirements, etc.), learning that focuses on creation and powerful connections to learning, not only take more effort, but more time, which sometimes frustrates many students.  Yet if we do not challenge our students in the learning they do in school, what are we preparing them for? What mindset will we actually create in our students?  It is important, if not crucial, to really listen and act upon student voice, but it is also just as important to help our students become resilient and face adversity in the school environment.

Being a huge basketball fan, I remember watching Phil Jackson coach the Lakers, and when the other team had some success against them and most coaches would have called a timeout, Phil Jackson made them struggle to learn to work their way out of it; they could not be dependent upon someone coming in to save them (Phil Jackson has the most championships of any coach in NBA history). Do we create spaces for our own students that pushes them out of their comfort zone and they have to work themselves out of it, or do we provide the solutions for them?  It is important to understand when to help a student back up, but it is also important to help them sometimes figure it out on their own.

Resilience is not only needed to be developed as an “innovator”, but just as a human. Life is full of ups and downs, but how you recover and move forward is not just important to how we learn, but how we live.

IN TO THE

Competition Is Great Depending on Who Wins

“Collaboration” is one of the words that is often discussed in what is crucial for our students today.  There are so many variations and quotes surrounding the idea that we are better together, and with that, I would totally agree.  The problem sometimes with this is that collaboration is often seen as the opposite of competition. In reality, the two should actually support one another.

Here is when competition is bad…

School “A” is competing with school “B” for students.  Because of that, they are not willing to share the things that they are doing with other schools because these are now “trade secrets”, and giving them away to the “competition”, might actually reduce enrolment.  Although the idea of not sharing your stuff to gain a competitive advantage, is sometimes a fallacy (if no one knows you are doing anything great, why would they come?), this mindset is not about helping kids, but helping ourselves.

And here is where competition is great…

I was having a conversation with a district level coordinator that told me about two high schools using the same hashtag to share amongst their schools for the same subject.  The collaboration between the schools was beneficial to not only the teachers, but more importantly the students.  The competition came in when one of the schools did an activity that the other school was not doing and the kids thought it was amazing.  Not wanting to be outdone, the other school quickly had their own similar activity, with some tweaks to make it better.  Both of these schools are more than willing to help one another, yet not wanting to be outdone.  Who is the ultimate winner of this competition? The kids.

I don’t know one teacher that wants to have the classroom that kids don’t want to go to, yet I have seen a lot of teachers that are reluctant to share. When we see “sharing” as something that both supports and pushes us to be better, the big winner will always be our students.

Competition is only a bad word in education if our students are the ones losing out.

When we see sharing as something that

Blogging for Staff Professional Learning

I have been really thinking about the idea of using social media to make local impact, not just global.  It is easy to get caught up in the opportunity to connect with classrooms around the world, that we sometimes forget about the teacher across the hall.

A little realization I had this morning when I received a comment on my blog post, “Does Brainstorming Lead to Innovation?“, was how often we are not asked to really think and dissect  something before we get together at a staff.  Often, people are asked to read articles or excerpts, but how often are we asked to share our thoughts prior in some sort of open reflection? This makes all of us smarter, not just the person reflecting.

From the original post, John Spencer shared his thoughts by writing, “Seven Ways to Fix Brainstorming“. Comments on the post shared subtle pushback, or alternatives as well.  What was important was the time to dissect, and actually share something that would be seen by others, ultimately helping people think more critically about their responses.

Clive Thompson

So what if we were to do this?

The week before (maybe more, maybe less) a professional learning opportunity, we had a school/staff blog that had an idea that was going to be discussed with staff.  People would be encouraged to write, create, write a comment on the original, or do whatever they wanted to respond, as long as it was linked back to the original.  This way, you are not limited to one person’s point of view, but are open to learning from others.  Would this not make for a much richer discussion that dives deeper into learning when we would actually connect face-to-face with one another?

My view on brainstorming has changed simply because people were willing to take the time and share their thoughts and ideas.  If you read them, not one of them challenged me, but challenged the ideas that were shared.  That’s the power of a blog.  What is important is to not only give people the opportunity to share their thoughts, but also give them time to create and connect their own learning.  Obviously, the hope for any professional learning is that this trickles down into the classroom with our students, and I think this could be a powerful way to really dive in deep to our own thinking, as well as the thinking of others, in our buildings and organizations.

Does “Brainstorming” Lead To Innovation?

MORE DAYS

I have a confession to make.  I hate meetings.

Maybe that is not entirely true. I hate bad meetings.

You know the ones where you spend a lot of time going round and round in circles, yet seem to accomplish little at the end of the day.  One of those main staples of these meetings has been “brainstorming”.  This process is one that has been heralded in not only meetings, but also for “Design Thinking” (here is a document on the techniques os brainstorming in design thinking from Stanford University, Institute of Design).

So out of sheer curiosity, I googled “brainstorming is bad” to see what I found (not biased at all I know).  Here are a few of the articles that I read with little snippets from each.

 

Why Brainstorming is Overrated; A New Approach to Creativity

This is a great article and talks about how sometimes “extroverts” can easily jade this process. It also talks about other opportunities to become creative through “not meeting”.

I love this quote from the article:

My brainstorming basics are simple.  Meet less.  Think more.   Draw inspiration from your day’s little moments.

Why Brainstorming Doesn’t Spark Innovation

This article is an interesting read because it focuses more on the science of “brainstorming”, and actually compares it to “leeches”. Here is a little tidbit:

The theory of brainstorming is that you turn off your analytical left brain, turn on your intuitive right brain, and creative ideas pop out. But neuroscience now tells us that there is no right or left side of the brain when it comes to thinking. Creative ideas actually happen in the mind, as the whole brain takes in past elements, then selects and combines them — and that’s how creative strategy works.

This article, actually linked to the following discussing innovation, entitled, “From Intuition to Creation“, and how some of the ideas aren’t necessarily “innovation”, but simply rehashing “best practice”.

Brainstorming works fine when you don’t need an innovation. People brainstorm mostly to solve problems they already know how to solve with their current expertise, at least as a group. When you brainstorm, you really throw out ideas from your personal experience — these come to mind fastest and strongest. If you have a problem that the total personal expertise of six people can solve, then brainstorming is very efficient. But if the solution actually lies outside their personal expertise, brainstorming is a trap — you toss out ideas and get conventional wisdom, not an innovation.

This really makes me think about the differences between “solving a problem” and “creating a solution”. Are the two phrases always the same?

Why Brainstorming is Bad For Creativity

I thought this was a great article, for two reasons.  First of all, how much do we really listen to others ideas when we are trying to share our own great ideas.

Remembering what you were going to say is not easy when you’re listening to others sharing their ideas. Chances are you’ll have forgotten your brilliant idea by the time you finally get to speak. Even worse, the entire time you’re trying to listen while remembering your own idea, you won’t be able to generate new ideas. The classical brainstorm session limits the amount of ideas that can be generated in a set amount of time. The more people you add to a brainstorm-group, the fewer ideas will be generated per participant per hour.

The second part is about the process of quiet reflection when we are trying to move forward.

Of course there is an obvious solution to these problems: quiet thinking sessions. First people write down their ideas (as much of them as possible) individually or in duos. Then every participant shares their ideas in the group. This doesn’t mean the ideas will be discussed of course, for the ideation phase is no place for criticism. Ideas can be built upon however and might be improved or reshaped into a new idea.

Anytime I have done workshops, I have ensured that there was time for quiet, yet open reflection.  Often, I don’t only ask people to share their thoughts, but also their questions, because you never know the spark that it might create in someone else, hearing about a problem they never thought existed.

Brainstorming Doesn’t Work; Try This Technique Instead

This article talks about the few people that can often dominate a brainstorming session, and this little


Thompson – Brainwriting

I like the shift from “brainstorming” to “brainwriting”. This process allows a focus on the ideas, as opposed to the people, which ultimately is the most important aspect of this process. You do not want to eliminate a great idea because the person behind doesn’t “sell” you enough on it.

 

With just these few articles, I know that I am going to challenge the next time I am asked to “brainstorm” in the way that I have mostly seen come to play in schools.  What I really noticed from this piece is just how important it is to find ways to share ideas that are not biased or affected by individuals, and give time for people to have some of their own processing.  The opportunity to reflect is not done enough in schools or professional learning, and it seems that my best ideas tend to come while I am exercising or listening to music, as opposed to shouting ideas in a room with my peers.  We need to think about how we can honour more voices and create better ideas through this process.

UPDATE:

John Spencer wrote a great post titled, “Seven Ways to Fix Brainstorming“, in response to what I wrote above.  The process he shares is much different, than what I have experienced.

5 Thoughts to Push Learning

I have been trying to reflect on my learning a lot lately and process my thoughts. I use this space not only as a place to share my learning, but to learn.  Writing helps me process my thoughts in a way that I could have never imagined.  The reflection and connection are crucial to my growth, and I appreciate people sharing their thoughts or reading along.  I recently read this quote from C.S. Lewis and was deeply impacted by it:

unlearned

From: http://austinkleon.com/2015/06/14/to-be-a-teacher-and-remain-a-student/

 

I don’t think I will ever be “there” as an expert, but am more comfortable in the role as a learner.  That is why I love using this space to reflect.

Below are some statements that I have thought a lot about in the last year, and I’ll share why they drive my thinking.

1. Technology will never replace great teachers, but technology in the hands of a great teacher can be transformational.

Technology is abundant and everywhere, and talked about all of the time.  That being said, it will never replace great teachers.  The best teachers do however use almost anything they can to create opportunities for all the students they serve.  This still focuses on great teaching and learning, but the opportunities teachers are afforded now are truly transformational for our learners.

2. To inspire meaningful change, you must make a connection to the heart before you can make a connection to the mind.

Recently evaluating sessions for a conference, the most common session that was suggested was on “revamping” professional learning.  Although the opportunities are great and the learning abundant, I still believe there is a power when we feel a human connection to learning.  Can we truly change our minds, if we don’t connect our hearts?  This is something that I always think about.

3. Would you want to spend the whole day learning in your own classroom?

I think some of the hardest people to teach in the world, are other educators, If the learning is not for them, they tend to check out because their expectations are so high.  With that being said, I think it is to our advantage if we focus on ourselves as educators in the role of learners, not teacher.  This empathetic approach is key to creating powerful learning environments.

4. We need to help our students not only be ready for opportunities, but to create them for themselves.

When I was a child, there was an importance placed on being ready for when opportunity knocked on your door.  Have a good resume, good cover letter, and even in some cases, a portfolio, and when a job is available, you will have your shot.  With job markets not only becoming more competitive combined with the opportunity of ease to share your voice, it is essential that we teach our students how to not only be ready for opportunities, but learn to create them for themselves.  This is not only about creating jobs, but driving change. A great example of this is Hannah Alper’s blog, who is a young person using her online space to help others.  How do we create schools where this is the norm, not the exception?

5. This is not about technology; it’s about relationships and learning.

Although the talk is often about “new and cutting edge” technology, our focus needs to keep relationships and learning at the forefront of our practice. To some, this is a no-brainer statement, but I still believe that it needs to be said repeatedly. If technology does not accelerate or amplify learning and relationships in schools, then why would we use it?  I love this graphic from Bill Ferriter showing the power of technology for this focus.

Technology is a Tool

What’s driving your learning?

5 Questions To Drive Personal-Professional Learning

Image created by @GregPearsonEDU using Canva.

Image created by @GPearsonEDU using Canva.

In a world where more and more people realize their voice matters, simply engaging people is not enough.  People need to feel empowered in the process of work and learning.  The shift from compliance to empowerment is essential in organizations today.  With that in mind, how do we help people grow? The question is not, how do we motivate them, which is an entirely different idea.  Motivating others is possible,  but it is not long lasting.  We can only truly motivate ourselves for any sustainable amount of time, this is not something that can be done for us.  Leaders need to look at how we create environments that remove barriers, and support the development of the innovator’s mindset in individuals.  Leadership’s job is not to control people, but to unleash talent.  The environment and processes we create are important in helping people find their own way and strengths.

Yet we too often focus on external “motivators” to be the driver for change or even learning.  One of the biggest shifts in my own thinking in the past few years is how learning is such a personal endeavour, yet we try to package it up and decide the paths and passions for others.  Stephen Downes summarizes this sentiment nicely:

“We have to stop thinking of an education as something that is delivered to us and instead see it as something we create for ourselves.”

With that being said, there is a lot of professional development that is working to “incentivize” learning with the use of external motivators.  Immediately doing this, in many ways says that it is not something that is important to learn without the incentive, or else we haven’t take the time to focus on the “why” of the learning.  If people don’t understand why we are learning something, it will not stick.  They need to make their own internal connection.  I understand though that in some areas, I don’t need to really explain “why”, before we move forward.  For example, if there is a safety plan in school, I would have the expectation that people knew how to do it and spend their time learning any procedures that we have in school.  That being said, I have seen states require “credit hours” for professional learning and have watched people show up so they can check off that they were there.  This is not going to create powerful and deep learning, but is simply a checklist in the “game of school“.  If there is no ownership over our own learning, how deep will we really go?

So what would I do differently?

Daniel Pink talks about the important of autonomy, mastery, purpose in motivation, and with that in mind, we should think about developing long term professional learning with that in mind.  Although growth plans are something that have been prevalent in schools for as long as I have been teaching, I think it is important to ask questions that focus on those three elements, while also helping leadership remove barriers to help learners achieve their goals.  As we develop our own professional growth plans for any period of time, here are some questions that I think are important to include.

1.  What would you like to learn? (Autonomy)

Although this question has driven my own professional learning for years, it is still necessary to set the stage for deep learning.  Ownership over the learning is crucial in this process.

2. What questions will be the driver for your learning? (Autonomy)

Inquiry-based professional learning is a powerful process, which helps you to view yourself not only as a problem solver, but also as a problem finder.  It also helps the learner articulate why this learning is important to them and gives them ownership over the process. Here is an example of how these questions can drive growth.

3.  Why is this important to your? How will it help the school? (Purpose)

This is a crucial element to not only a person’s learning, but also to help them use their strengths to improve learning, while helping leadership understand those strengths to tap into.  The best teams in the world build upon individual strengths to bring people together toward’s a common goal; they do not try to mould people to something that they are not.

4.  How will you know (measures) that you have achieved your goals at the end of this time? (Mastery and Autonomy)

Accountability is crucial in this process but helping the person define their own measures not only helps them to define what “mastery” could look like, but also have autonomy understanding their own point “a” to point “b”.

5.  What barriers will you need removed, or what support will you need to be successful? (Unleash Talent)

This question is crucial and necessary to leadership.  A lot of reasons things don’t happen in schools is because of dumb policies and guidelines that make “innovation” extremely hard and simply “hoop jumping”.  One thing that I used to say to my staff all of the time was, “I cannot solve problems that I don’t know about.” That is true, but perhaps I needed to ask them a lot more what the problems were that I could help with.

 

To have a “culture of innovation”, developing educators as leaners is crucial.  Helping them understand their own passions and interests, and giving them opportunities to use them to further the vision of the school is paramount.  But if we see learning as a truly “personal” endeavour, focusing on the ideas of “autonomy, mastery, and purpose” in developing our professional learning plans is crucial into the development of both individuals as well as our organizations.

4 Ways We Can Share Our Stories to Drive Innovation

There is no more human profession in the world than education.

In fact, as content has become abundant, education has become more human.  Fifty years ago, and fifty years from now, relationships will be the most important thing we do in schools.  In fact, with information becoming plentiful, I would actually argue that relationships will become more important than ever.  If I do not feel valued to the place that I come every day, why would I continue to show up?

Yet in some cases, we take this human profession, and reduce our most precious resource, our students, to letters and numbers.  We have done this to teachers as well.  Instead of hearing their stories, we rank and sort so many involved in education, and lose the faces and humanity in our practice.  So many people, whether in government or administrator positions, say that standardized tests are not valued, yet so much is still measured by these numbers, both students and teachers.  The emphasis should be on the people, not numbers.

letter and numbers

This is not to say that accountability isn’t important in education.  Nobody wants bad teachers in the profession, including teachers, yet there is so much more to a story to a person than a letter or grade.  We have to think of different ways that our stories can be shared though and put more of an emphasis on the qualitative data, not the quantitative.  Both have a place in education, but the stories and observations that are shared need to be put in the forefront.

Here are some ways that we can really start to share these stories in a continuous and ongoing basis.

1. Tapping into the power of visuals. – The most powerful camera in the world, is the one that you have with you. Fortunately, most of us have one with us all of the time.  People like Tim Lauer, sharing pictures of his school on Instagram, or Tony Sinanis using YouTube to highlight his students in school newsletters, actually elicits emotional responses when I see what they share.  The old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”, is totally true.  So then what is a video worth?  These accounts are something that not only tell a lot about the happenings in the school, but they also encourage growth in their own school communities, as well as others around the world.  I know many have started Instagram accounts based on Tim’s work, while others have started school YouTube newsletters based on seeing Tony’s account.  I am not even sure where they got the idea, but I know that their sharing has probably made am impact both locally and globally, while sharing their story.

2.  A Year in Photos/Videos – As many schools in North America are either done or winding down their school year, I love the “montage” idea of sharing what has happened in school.  I have seen this happen at end of the year assemblies, but they are not often shared publicly.  Dean Shareski does a “year in review” video every year, that shows so much of what has happened in his year and tells a powerful story. I would love to see more schools doing this.

3.  Telling Your Own Story Through Digital Portfolios –  I am a big believer in the power of digital portfolios.  Not only do they give students the opportunity to reflect, but they give them an opportunity to share their voice and story in a plethora of unique ways. Many schools have focused on “engagement”, yet I believe that we need to empower those that we serve by not only asking them to share assignments, but tell their unique stories through these platforms.  In a world where anyone can have a voice, are we working with our students to help them share their voice with people around the world, or just contain them within the walls of our school, either physically or digitally.  One of my favourite quotes is from Shelley Wright, when she stated, “Kids often defy expectations when you give them the opportunity.” Do we encourage them to share their stories with the world in meaningful ways, or are we simply focusing on “doing school”. (Here are some resources on blogs as digital portfolios.)

4. The Simplicity and Power of a Hashtag – Simply having a hashtag for your school or class, not only taps into the power of sharing, but also helps drive innovation.  A hashtag is not just about communication, but it can be about culture.  You may not have your community all on Twitter, so we have used things like Storify to curate and share our learning and ideas with our community.  Having a Twitter account for your school empowers one voice, but having a hashtag, can empower all.  There is a lot you can tell to a community in 140 characters.

The human side of education is something that is extremely important to me.  Sharing those powerful stories not only paints a different narrative, but it can actually drive innovation. Seeing faces, and hearing voices, elicits a human connection to the work that we are doing.  In a profession that is extremely human, we have to remember the power we have to tap into one another, when we share these stories that tell more than any letter or number ever could.

There Should Be More than One “Lead Learner”

(Note…based on the first few comments I wanted to update the post to reflect my VERY strong belief that principals/superintendents should model their learning.  It has been updated below and I appreciate the pushback that helped me to communicate my thoughts!)

The term “Lead Learner” has been one that has been thrown around a lot by superintendents, principals, and other people at the top of the traditional hierarchy, mostly in reference to themselves.  As a principal, I actually used the term referring to myself in a blog post I wrote in January 2011, and am not sure where I heard it, or just used it on a whim.  What I do know now though is that I am reluctant to using the term when talking about a principal or superintendent, and I rarely (if ever) have heard someone else call their principal or superintendent the “lead learner”.  Does that say something about the term?

I do however, understand why it is being used so often though.  Principals, superintendents, and other traditional “bosses” see their roles changing, and see this as part of flattening the organization, or at least that is how I saw it when I first used it.  I wanted to model that I was a learner just like everyone else in my school, and, as Chris Kennedy would say,  I wanted to be “elbows deep in learning” with them.  The reality though is that the term still refers to one person being in an authority position, and for me now, evokes the ideas that the principal is seen as the “holder of all knowledge”.  This was not how my school worked at all.  There were not only people who knew a lot more than me in many areas, but they were also more passionate about going deeper in the topic.  I was definitely not the “lead learner” in many areas, nor did I want to be.  If you think about it, in any school a “lead learner” could be in any area, and can be any person, and is often our own students.  In a culture where “everyone is a teacher and everyone is a learner”, the term “lead learner” could and should be applied to many.

The role of principal is evolving, but I also know that some people need the principal to be the principal.  There is a point where people need to know that in tough situations, they can count on someone to back them up and be there for them.  I had many principals step in for me when I didn’t know what to do, or supported me in tough situations.  I didn’t need them to be the “lead learner”, I needed them to be the principal.  Great leaders don’t get consensus on all decisions, but sometimes have to make the tough ones on their own.  This comes as part of the role and sometimes it is important to know who to go to when there is a struggle.

The title does not necessarily make the role, only how you do it.  

Yet words mean something and if we are truly to create a culture where all people can step up and explore their passions and we believe that everyone has the potential to lead and bring out their best, the term “lead learner” should never be reserved for one person.

Should the principal/superintendent still openly share their learning?  Absolutely.  With technology now, that is easier than ever, but note I used the term “model” their learning.  Administrators have been learning forever but it was hard to communicate and share their learning on an ongoing basis.  That being said, there is a difference between a “leader that learns” and a “lead learner”, as one creates the notion that there is a “top learner”, where we should create an environment that in organizations, both inside and outside, learning by all is essential to success.

Questions to Drive Growth #3QuestionsEDU

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:

 

  1. 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”?

  1. 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.

  1. 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.