It's time to chase Innovation instead of reacting to the status quo.
I've just started reading Angela Duckworth's book titled, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance and I have been hooked. I love the idea of Grit and not giving into difficulties. Sometimes I question if I have "grit" in certain areas of my life, but that is a personal challenge that will be discovered on another post.
This year I wanted to challenge the SS teachers that I have been working with to challenge teachers to be innovative. I'm using the definition from Couros' book Innovator's Mindset being, "innovation as a way of thinking that creates something new and better". For this process, I created the 1+1 Challenge. Basically I am challenging teachers to innovate one aspect of their classroom + one aspect of their personal professional development. The unique situation that we are in this year is the presence of the SS Tech Coach (me). Teachers now have the opportunity to "take the leap" as I described in a previous post. My hope is that through this challenge, teachers will start to feel excited about innovation in their classroom or development. That apps like Twitter won't be a foreign land but rather a challenge to accept.
I want to innovate classrooms because I am not satisfied with the "throw-up" method of learning. I don't want students to memorize and throw up information only to forget it the next day. I want to help teachers create learning experiences that alter the way student's view learning and the world around them. All it takes is a single step +1.
Check out my Sway presentation that I shared with the teachers... still learning Microsoft 365, but having fun stretching my learning as we go!
Click through the presentation with the arrows at the bottom of the page!
A Tale of Two Worlds
There is a great book series by Ted Dekker called The Circle Series. The first book Black: The Birth of Evil is about a character in a unique situation. Thomas Hunter was knocked unconscious by a bullet to his head and when he wakes up he's in a world of dark twisted trees. Within the new world, he is attacked, gets away, and eventually due to blood loss falls asleep, only to wake up where he was previously in Denver, Colorado. The book goes onto describe the two worlds that Hunter is traveling between, each with their own conflict that he must help solve. It is a really entertaining book, I highly recommend it to anyone interested in sci-fi books.
Now, whether you have read this book or not the idea of being split between worlds is not unique to any of us. We have experienced different lives, work, school, home, vacation, etc. All of these bring us into different experiences and the ability to learn more about how we can handle the balance.
I feel that I am coming into an incredible experience as I see the different worlds between the MS and the HS. There is mere feet dividing the two campuses, but they are all so different. I think this is going to be a really exciting experience for me simply because I am going to be stretched. I came across this quote (below) on Twitter a few days ago and as I have reflected on it I feel myself being moved into something more than I was before. I am excited to see what will come from this year and how I am going to be continuing to be formed and pressed into something greater!
One important aspect of coming into a new position is embracing one's status as "the new guy". Unfortunately for me my "new guy" status is only a sliver. Since I have been working at this school for the past 5 years as a middle school teacher, my new guy status is not going very far. Though I am also going to be working in the high school, our community is small enough that I know the teachers and generally the process that happens in both campuses. That being said, the true "new guy" is this position. The Technology Coach position is new to all, which is exciting! I love going into a situation without expectations, being able to build from the ground up, making mistakes and trying new things without having to compare. At the same time, a new position means you have to define what you do to people who did not go through the interview process.
That was my task today. "Explain what your job is and how it will benefit teachers and the school. And O by the way, you have 5 minutes to do it. "
I have a wonderful elementary school counterpart who has been in a tech coaching role/computer teacher for the past 12 years, but because her title has also changed she was also responsible for sharing what we will be doing.
In my experience preaching, teaching and camp speaking I have learned to be open to divine inspiration. This event is what happens on your favorite cop show when the detective is talking with his barber about baseball and something that is said fills the gap to the investigation and the case is closed. Show is over, let's put a bow on it. Anyway, though i often do prepare for talks, I am always open for that voice of the Holy Spirit to show a new direction, illustration or idea that I might have missed out on. Needless to say it happened here.
Two nights ago I found myself watching a video of a friend's kids doing the jump off the Macau Tower. This is a controlled fall from the top of the tower down to the ground level.
The video was great, two middle school boys doing a tandem "fall' their eyes wide, wondering if the harnesses that were put on by the tower staff would actually work. You could see the hesitation in their eyes and voices as they were answering the questions of their guides. The men in orange were encouraging them and then the fateful moment came. "Okay boys count to three and step off the platform".
You see them both say three, take the step and start to fall. The sound of wind comes over the GoPro that they are holding, but you see a moment of joy and relief as they are falling, experiencing flight, but knowing they are safe. About midway through the fall one of the boys yells out with joy "we didn't die!", showing his true worry on that tower.
The boys land easily at the bottom of the tower, excited and hopped up on adrenaline while another tower staff member in an orange shirt asks them "how'd it go?" and takes the straps off of them.
I shared this story with the whole faculty of our school. All three levels. Then I brought my explanation about what my job is. See when it comes to innovating our lessons/units/projects/classrooms we need to change. Sometimes, frankly most of the time, change is hard. There are a lot of excuses. Like the boys standing on the platform, we like the IDEA of innovation, but on our own we just can't get ourselves to do it.
That's where the staff in the orange shirts come in. Like the tower staff, I will be the one to harness up the teachers in their innovation ideas, explain the rules and help them count to three to take the leap off the tower.
But my job doesn't end there...
Because once the jump is complete, once the adrenaline has started coursing through the teacher's body like a flash flood through the desert, there I am, the staff in the orange shirt asking the boys "how'd it go?". Taking time to reflect with the teachers, offer feedback and suggestions for their next jump.
I think it is so important that we can clearly understand what it means to be a technology (or any other type) of coach. Innovation is hard. Teachers are not meant to do this on their own. That's where I am going to come in, encouraging them to jump, even giving them a push off the edge and ultimately watching them grow in unbelievable ways. I believe that my message was heard today and I am excited that I was able to take my own leap, ready to see where I will land!
Taylor currently serves as a Coordinator of Innovative Learning for a mid-sized school district in Texas. He is a speaker, writer, and coach for all who are in conflict with the status quo.