1. In the interest of spirited conversation, I’ll say “no.”

    An innovator needs to be inquisitive, progressive, and have a constant willingness to test new methods. That’s why we like them. We have a few of them in every school, and you’ll often see them leading small groups of exploration, or you’ll seem them champion a larger push within their building or district. That’s great! The question is whether taking that reality into every single classroom is feasible, manageable, or even warranted if we still need to lead a school district with a sense of clear common purpose.

    If we implore every one of our teachers to explore innovative practices with zeal and passion, we can quite easily wind up with a fragmented sense of community, with small groups or individuals heading off into directions that might be productive for a smaller group, yet detrimental to the overall stability and camaraderie of a school’s culture. In the face of weak leadership; someone who isn’t able to make the big course corrections necessary to keep a school moving along towards a shared collective goal, then having a multitude of innovators could prove disastrous for building up cohesive patterns of practice.

    Don’t take any of this as nay-saying, merely a reflection on the original question “should every educator be an innovator?” My direct response is still “no”, not every educator needs to be an innovator, BUT every educator should be ABLE to think like an innovator when asked.

    You hit on that towards the end of the reflection; there are certain characteristics of the innovator’s mindset, and quite often we need to ask all involved within education to think that way. I’m just not sure that’s as sustainable as focusing on a wider “blending” of characteristics and qualities in which various elements of leadership and thoughts should balance out the innovator’s mindset; the thoughts of the tinkerers, explorers, and dreamers are important, but often don’t get us nearly as far as when they’re tempered with the thoughts of the realists, the straight and narrow types, and those sensitive to the community around them. It’s what helped propel Apple in the early life of their company, when Steve Jobs was famously quoted as saying “real artists ship” in response to their inability to deliver a sustainable highly quality follow up to their original innovations with personal computing.

    When we look at ourselves in terms of having the “innovator’s mindset” and say “that’s not me”, we aren’t selling ourselves short, or our students. We need to constantly ask the question, “what is my role, and how best can I fulfill that for my learners?” This is the question we all need to continuously ask in education.

    • Jerry Price

      Terrific conversation. Innovation is both important and exhausting. It is important to give teachers opportunities to innovate, but also build communities where we can rely on others for ideas at times as well. Finally, I believe the best classrooms are often ones where the teacher is not necessarily adjusting their practice, but posing questions and giving students the freedom to seek solutions in different and innovative ways.

  2. I applaud you for asking the question. I agree with George that its about the innovator mindset. I do believe that teachers and staff should model creativity and problem solving. I also sincerely believe a culture of innovation that is based on a collective vision can do wonders for a school and students.
    I think the best way is to consider the growth mindset of Carol Dweck but also to teach leadership. I would love to hear your comments on the BuildMyIdea Manifesto to shift the students mindsets. http://buildmyidea.org/manifesto/

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