So often we hear that we need to be thinking outside of the box. It was refreshing, for a change, to instead hear and read (during the #IMMOOC live session, and in Part 1 of The Innovator’s Mindset) that we can also be innovative teachers “inside the box,” and that anyone can be innovative, regardless of budgetary constraints.
I have worked in three different schools. My first gig was in England in an IB school. Tuition rates were very high, and it was an atmosphere of plenty. Although the abundance of resources and technology helped teachers to do “new and better” things, it did not guarantee innovative teaching. In contrast, the last two schools I have worked at, have been public schools with much tighter budgetary constraints, and yet this did not, and has not eliminated the possibility of innovative teaching.
Many people get stuck on the idea that innovation is all about technology and resources, and that to be innovative teachers, we need “stuff.” This is a huge misconception. Although resources may help teachers do “new and better” things with their students, they are not what make them innovative teachers.
Innovation is a mindset, hence the name of George’s book. It is not about having the “stuff,” but rather about having the mindset. If you look at the 8 characteristics of an innovator’s mindset mentioned in the book, you will see that there is actually no mention of technology and resources.
Another big misconception about innovative teaching is that innovative teachers are always taking on massive, overwhelming projects that take them away from the curriculum. As a resource teacher and counsellor, my job does not have me taking on massive projects with my students, but I still consider the work that my team and I do to be innovative. As a team, we are constantly looking for “new and better” ways to do things, which is what innovation is all about!
So, how exactly am I being innovative as a school resource teacher and counsellor? First and foremost, I am networking and collaborating with others. Starting my blog this summer, has encouraged me to not only do a lot more self-reflection, but it, and Twitter have also connected me on a global scale with so many other bloggers and Tweeps in all corners of the planet. Engaging with others on Twitter, and more recently through blogging, has provided me an ENORMOUS amount of professional learning in the last few years.
I am also networking more locally and collaborating closely with my Student Services team, and other teams in our division. Like Venables and Clark, I feel lucky to have found my tribe! There is so much to be said about working closely with people on the same wavelength as you.
As a team, we take the time to observe our students closely and get to know them well, in order to be able to empathize with them. This gives us a better understanding of where each kid that we work with is stuck (problem finding) and how they learn best. Together we discuss our observations and findings and create better learning opportunities for them.
It is important to not think of your class as a whole but to also know each student and what works for him or her. – George Couros
We also take advantage of as many professional learning opportunities as we can. These opportunities have given us a better understanding of student behaviour and different learning challenges, and have allowed us to create new and better learning experiences for our students.
This is what everyday innovation in my job as resource teacher and counsellor is about. It doesn’t involve a massive undertaking or project and does not require a whole lot of stuff. It is regularly taking the time to reflect on how I am doing, and when I know better I do better.