My good friend, AJ Juliani, is someone who I respect, admire, and appreciate. His constant push of himself to try new and different things is inspiring, and his attitude toward his work and personal life is one of the reasons that I love being connected with him. He is not afraid to try new things, but he never sets out to fail. He isn’t afraid of failure, but his hard work ethic has led him to do many great things, personally and professionally.
That is why I was excited by his new podcast, “Inside Innovation,” which launched recently. I am not only interested in the content but appreciate AJ’s constant pursuit of growth. In the first episode, AJ talked about how “innovation” is a personal thing, and I couldn’t agree more. What is one person’s “innovation”, is another’s best practice, and vice-versa. It is also about serving the kids in front of you, not doing something that someone else did because it worked for them. You know your students better than anyone, and that is why I believe relationships are the foundation of innovation in education, and empathy is the driving force. Know your students, and the “innovation” will come.
I have shared this image several times, but I want to acknowledge a tweak that was made based on feedback:
Originally, I had “what is best for learners?”, and someone suggested that it should state, “What is best for this learner?” They were right, and so I changed it.
The thing is that you may hear people pushing back on “innovation in education,” but I believe they see something larger than what innovation can truly be. Innovation is not necessarily coming up with the next “Genius Hour,” but it happens in small ways in classrooms, all the time. It happens with a teacher tweaking a reading program slightly to meet the needs of a struggling student. It happens with flipping the classroom, by not necessarily having students a video at home, but having them create and teach the lesson, rather than consume it. As AJ and John Spencer say in their book “Empower” (paraphrased), “What are things that you are doing that your students could be doing instead?” Many teachers have handed over ownership of learning to their students and have realized, not only is it better for the learner, but it is more rewarding for the teacher. Challenging our own thinking, in little moments here and there, can lead to massive benefits for our students.
Little tweaks for our students that happen daily that help them achieve success is why innovation is a mindset, not necessarily some gigantic idea. The best teachers make these incremental innovations for their students continuously; they don’t do things differently just to be different, but to make it better. Without the “better,” the “new” doesn’t matter, and that mindset is why they (and their students) are successful.