Model the Innovation Spirit You Want to Cultivate

Establishing innovation rituals in schools and classrooms often needs the most concrete of methods to help them take root: modeling.

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Establishing innovation rituals in schools and classrooms often needs the most concrete of methods to help them take root: modeling.

There are many books about innovation that discuss the necessary traits to nurture in young innovators (observing, questioning, experimenting, networking, and associating as shared in The Innovator's DNA), and the patterns of innovation to design for that can translate into school/classroom environments and personal actions (exploring the adjacent possible, slow hunches, liquid networks, error, exaption, platforms, and serendipity from Where Good Ideas Come From).

All of that is critical knowledge needed by stakeholders in order to move from buy-in to ownership of  innovative rituals, especially from a leadership standpoint. (As  Grant Lichtman  says, leadership's responsibility is to "create systems that foster mindsets.") But ultimately, being innovative has to be something real that teachers, students, and administrators can see right before their eyes. They need homegrown examples right in their own school that they can recognize and be familiar with.

Maybe that homegrown innovation takes the form of...

    • Tools for students to use in their work
    • New schedules
    • Inventive thinking routines
    • Piloting assessment and feedback tools
    • Experimenting with re-organizing learning spaces
    • Creating a mechanism for collecting and sharing resources

And what that homegrown innovation looks like should be different for every school because every school starts in a different place. Each school's culture is unique and has different systems in place. So examples of innovation could range from sharing on Teacher's Pay Teachers, to running a Kickstarter or Donor's Choose campaign.

Once people in your school start to see the "stuff", you can then begin to have the conversations around realizing that it isn't just about the "stuff" at all. Innovation is about a way of thinking, and building any rituals needs to have that as a central tenet.

A mentor and good friend of mine, Dr. John Sheehan, told me once that, "Every thing we do, teaches." And before that thought even had time to sink in he added, "Even the things we don't do, teach." If we want to create innovators, we must first be innovators ourselves. If we aren't modeling being innovative, then what message does that give to our students?


This entry, with additional links and images, was also posted on my personal blog - Building Capacity.

Image Credit: "Violin Teacher 2", Nathan Russell via Flickr, CC BY

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Photo of Moss Pike

Great share, Jim; I love it! I fully agree that, in order to create a *sustainable* innovative culture, we need to start with ourselves and do more than simply talk about innovation. Lately, I've been focusing on schedule and space and two of the primary ways to accomplish this, as you've identified above. Would love to build on these ideas in our next phase!

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