I am not that far removed from the classroom. Just a little over a year ago I was in the classroom teaching World History. I strive to keep the perspective of a teacher as an important element in my daily practice. I have worked in urban and suburban schools. Both environments offer their own challenges. The hurdles and pressures teachers face each day are at the forefront of the decisions I make, right behind what is best for students.
This week I have been thrust into the perspective of a teacher as it relates to initiatives and initiative overload. I remember this being an issue 13 years ago when I started in education and it still is. The idea that keeps resonating me from the Innovator’s Mindset book is the one about adding on layers. As an education system we keep adding on layers, looking for panaceas. But, we don’t look at the big picture, at the model of education. Unfortunately, we don’t always look at the add-on of initiatives from the perspective of a teacher either. We push mastery based education for our students, but not with our teachers. We rarely give teachers time to master any one program or initiative before piling on another. It leads many to feel inept and question their effectiveness.
Innovation and change is important. In mind mind it doesn’t equate to new programs, new curriculum materials, new pedagogical strategies. It is more about mindset and mastery. Innovation doesn’t mean when we hear about Design Thinking or Genius Hour or Education Technology we jump on the bandwagon just because they are new and different. Any decision about any initiative should be rooted in what is best for our students and teachers. Sometimes it’s more important for us to take time, find our footing, evaluate our current programming and then look for opportunities for innovation within those. Sometimes initiatives don’t align to our goals. It’s ok to say no to them when they don’t. Promoting the latest and greatest in our schools shouldn’t be done because everyone else is doing it. This shouldn’t be a marketing tool. I worry that educators often fall into this trap and next thing you know teachers are on initiative overload.
I do realize that there are some instances where we have to adopt new programs in the interest of what is best for our students. The key is that the implementation is targeted and well formulated, aligned to our vision of teaching and learning.
As often as possible we should work to allow organic, grass-roots, individual implementation over school or district mandates. This model ensures we are being human-centered in our approach. It means we are serving our educators as individuals, allowing educators to incorporate their passions and strengths and preventing overload.