I’m excited to participate in round 2 of the Innovator’s Mindset Massive Online Open Course (#IMMOOC) led by George Couros and Katie Martin. I was more of a lurnker in the fall with the first go around since I hadn’t started to blog yet. By connecting and learning from this great group, it was the nudge I needed to get going and share more of my voice.
If there were traditional grades assigned with the first IMMOOC, I would have totally FAILED! I didn’t complete the “assignments” or keep up with the rest of the group. However, the learning I gained was invaluable. This group sparked my brain into overdrive and totally changed my trajectory as a learner and leader. I’m already behind again, so I’m going to combine weeks 1 & 2 together here to get caught up. 2-for-1 here ya go!
The Purpose of Education & Why is Innovation Needed
I love the Einstein quote in the introduction of The Innovator’s Mindset. But I would add that the true value of learning, is what you do with it! I have always loved learning. School was a place that I enjoyed going and was very successful. People like me are not usually the ones that want to change school since it worked so well for them, but I knew there was a better way. I got really good at the “game of school” by acing tests, getting good grades, and pleasing the teachers. However, my learning was not deep or meaningful and I wasn’t really doing anything with it (other than what the teacher’s had assigned).
I want the kids I teach (and my own children) to gain knowledge and skills to help them be successful in life, not be performers on worksheets and tests. This should be the purpose of education. Probably because most of my days in the classroom were spent with English Language Learners, I knew what I taught them (or didn’t) made an impact in their lives. It was not about getting a good grade. It was about learning the language and culture to survive and thrive in a new place.
As an adult I’ve become a much better learner, not just a student. I learn things that I want or need to know. I may use Youtube to find a video about how to fix the washing machine, or learn more about Easter Island before our adventurous trip there. (Worthy of a future blog post!) School should be meaningful for our students in their lives now. My own children have had some wonderful innovative teachers who have connected with them and sparked curiosity. But there are also the drudgery and test driven classes that kill the joy of learning. This is why we need more innovation and not just in pockets.
I see a transformation happening, especially in Texas. Many visionary superintendents and principals embrace A New Vision for Public Education that was created back in 2008. Many of the principles discussed are becoming more accepted, but are still not commonplace. The good news is I feel the tide turning with so many more educators on board to be creative, create meaningful learning opportunities for all kids and have more fun in school. We are getting there, but there is still much work to be done! As more teachers embrace the characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset, new and better learning opportunities will be available for our kids.
Characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset
The characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset where I “glow” or are strongest are being empathetic and reflective. Probably the most emotional qualities here and the more passive. But it would be interesting to find out what other people would say about me on this – feel free to chime in!
I don’t think I am alone sharing these qualities. Most of us went into education to serve others and make a difference. I think those goals go right along with empathy and reflection. I can easily connect with kids (and teachers) to build strong relationships that foster growth. I also spend a lot of time thinking about what is working and what is not. As a designer of professional learning, I’m constantly thinking about how to improve experiences and help school leaders in their growth to make the most impact. Time is precious and I could plan learning opportunities all day. But what is going to make a difference for the students we serve and what are the BEST ideas that they need to learn?
The characteristic I’m consciously trying to “grow” is risk-taking. Educators, for the most part, are a very risk averse group. Even our lower car insurance premiums prove that as Katie mentioned in episode 2! I continue to work at taking new risks (like writing a blog) and am building that muscle little by little. I have to say the connection that Sarah Thomas made to Fight Club was epic! I actually love that movie and can totally relate to it. At times, there is a crazy person inside my head that is totally fearless. It helps to think of that alter ego when I need to do hard things and channel an inner drive to make it happen. Sometimes I have to step outside of myself to move past fear and anxiety. It is also hard to let go of control, but I am working on that too!
Earlier today I was listening to the pivot podcast with Jenny Blake and she ends every episode by saying, “Build first, then your courage will follow”. I always thought it was the other way around…that I had to be brave enough BEFORE I started. But my thinking has been completely backwards. This notion that courage is a muscle you can build up by continuing to try new things is extremely freeing. Growth mindset in action. When I first started participating in twitter chats I would overanalyze each tweet and wonder what people would think. Now I am much more comfortable sharing my thoughts in 140 characters. I’ve seen my courage and confidence grow significantly. Now I save all the overthinking for the blog posts, reading and re-reading them before I hit the dreaded Publish button. Each one gets easier over time and I look forward to a day where I write, edit and publish without hesitation.
If you have read this far, I really appreciate you sticking with it! I will keep working on the risk-taking while being empathetic and reflective. I hope to continue to make great connections to build my network and find a problem or two to solve along the way. Where do you “glow” and where would you like to “grow”? I would love to hear, please share your thoughts!