I have been catching up on the Innovators Mindset Open Online Course and it didn’t take long to inspire me to start blogging again. It’s so easy to be so busy that blogging just isn’t a priority. Teaching, family, staff meetings, parent meetings, National Boards, etc. etc. But when I start listening to innovative teachers share their practice, my head starts spinning and I want to share what I’m thinking too. So often we feel like we don’t measure up. So here I go. Again.
There are many things that make a teacher innovative. Because I value collaboration, face to face, and with people I’ve never met, communicating using 140 characters or less – I’m innovative. Because I take risks in my day to day practice -I’m innovative. Because I learn from my mistakes-I’m innovative. And because I give everyone of my 1st grade students the support they need to make choices and take risks in their learning – I am innovative. But the hard part about being innovative is that nothing stays the same. I can’t rely on what worked last year or the year before because ever school year brings a new group of students. And a new set of challenges.
Right now I’m struggling with We Wonder Wednesday. This is a day that I set aside for my students to learn about anything they want to. They can work by themselves, they can work in groups – they just need to be learning.
I have students, 7 and 8 year olds, researching fish, dinosaurs, Michelle Obama, plants, bubbles, Mt. Everest and binary numbers. ( crazy, I know.) And they are learning. They are picking a topic , doing basic research, and then creating a poster or a book, often using technology, and moving on to the next wonder. And then they repeat. Why aren’t they taking more risks? Is it them or is it me? By now my students have learned what it means to be a self directed learner, they know what it means to think critically and share their thinking. And we have also defined what it means to be creative.
For me being creative, means not showing your work the same way again and again. And that involves taking risks. Are all my student able to do that? I don’t think so. So is it me?Or is it them? What am I missing? Are students just picking a topic and saying, “OK, today I want to learn about fish? Or are they asking questions, after all wonder means to be curious about something. They shouldn’t be picking a topic. They should be asking questions. And if they don’t have a lot of questions about a topic, then they should find another topic. One they are passionate about. Maybe that is what’s missing. Passion. How do we create a classroom where children are passionate about their work? Giving them voice and choice, time to wonder and ask questions, is a good start. But how do we model passion? That might be the key to innovation. So this Wednesday, I will remind my students how I wonder continually-when I’m making my coffee in the morning, on my drive to work, while I’m teaching, and most especially on a walk when I’m catching up on conversations about innovation in teaching. I will remind them how passionate I am about learning and sometimes that means taking more risks, looking at things, even learning in a new way. To do this we will need to be persistent, resilient and flexible.We will need to push ourselves to think differently about the world. And if I can teach them that – I can consider myself innovative.