Summer is a great time for reflection and throwing ideas around, so here is something that has been floating around in my brain.
The other night on the ESPY Awards, when Stuart Scott was awarded the “Jimmy V Perseverance” award (an amazing speech that you really should watch) for his fight against cancer, his friend Robin Roberts came up to the stage and talked about a new initiative in the hopes to cure cancer. Although she mentioned it very briefly, my interest was piqued considerably when she talked about the idea of bringing in people outside of the profession to give new ideas to think about curing cancer. My interest was piqued considerably at the idea that people outside of a profession look at solving a problem. In education, many of us have spent many years looking at the same problems that the system we are in created; a different perspective on things could be helpful.
I will admit that one of my biggest pet peeves is hearing people say that people outside of education shouldn’t speak at education conferences because they do not know what it is like to be in the classroom. The same “growth mindset” that many of us preach seems pretty closed when we hear sentiments like this. I myself have been guilty of saying, “what would they know, they’ve never had to teach”, yet still love when hearing a student’s perspective about school, when they also have never taught. We can learn from anyone about anything, and what is important is that we learn to make connections to what we do in the education system. If you go to many conferences, many of the same ideas shared by educators are ones that are often reiterated from others but with a different perspective or “twist” to the story. Many people are wanting some vastly different ideas.
Now there is a difference between having a non-educator talk about how to solve problems in the classroom, as opposed to hearing someone’s story from outside of the education realm. A doctor doesn’t know what it is like to have 30 kids in a classroom, no more than I know what it is like to remove someone’s appendix. It is important to understand that in any profession we respect that experience often trumps research. I am not looking for Bill Gates to give me ideas on how to run a school. I would however be interested to know what Bill Gates has done in his own work to create change and make what he does better. I would also like to know about the changes that have happened in the music industry, and how people in that field have created an environment where they thrive. How did Uber come about and what are traditional taxi services doing to change the way they do business? The Edmonton Humane Society has totally changed my perspective on how an animal shelter should look like (it is an amazingly beautiful place and looks a lot different from the small cage that I got my first dog Kobe from), and their outreach to the community through their Twitter account has been engaging and powerful. How did they get to that point and why did they change?
The thing that education has in common with many other fields is that change has been thrust upon them because of the ease of access to information and the easy ability to connect with one another. Schools aren’t the only organization that is having to look at drastic change. Many industries are facing similar challenges. What can we learn from them about what they have done and how can we make it applicable to the challenges we are facing? Creating those connections to both ideas and people could be extremely valuable to the field of education.
So the idea that has been floating around in my head has been hosting an “innovator summit”. This would have people from different fields that are looking at creating, and have created change in their respective fields. How did they do it? What worked? What didn’t? What could we learn from each other? This would also include people from the field of education who have been successful in creating valuable changes in their own organizations. There is a lot that different industries could learn from us and apply to their own work. Truthfully, if anyone should look at hosting a conference where we can learn from one another, shouldn’t it be the field of education?
I have been tossing this idea around in my head. Perhaps having an “Ignite” style day with short talks, but with the opportunity for conversations with other people. Maybe even an “Edcamp” type conference. The idea is definitely in its infancy. The one thing that I know I would NOT want is people from different fields coming in to tell educators how schools should be. I have seen that before and it has been a lot of “how to” on getting students to do better at tests, and behaving, etc. Are we focusing on “doing things better”, or “doing better things”? Those are two uniquely different ideas and my hope is that we are moving to the latter.
Maybe this has been done before. Maybe it hasn’t. It is pretty hard to have an original idea in today’s world but I would sure love some feedback and thoughts on what this could look like or if this is even something that would be beneficial in our work to help our students.