One Change a Week

Buddy up with someone and together make a small change in your classrooms each week, sharing how it went at the end of each week.

Photo of Mark Carlucci

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Update - Aug-30-2015 4:58 PM EST:  I have been thinking of how to grow this from something generalized into a specific goal to achieve, this is what I have come up with so far.

Misson:  Reduce fear and anxiety in regards to failure in order to foster a desire to innovate.

Target Group(s): 

Alpha phase: Several classes of students. Ideally, this will implemented by a small group of teachers in their classrooms. Three to five teachers from different grade levels/subject areas would be a good group to test with.

Beta phase: Whole school implementation. (By invitation?) Moving beyond a small group expand to include staff and students in one or two whole schools. 

Beyond:  Expand to a board level initiative. This is something that could go well beyond the realm of education and work in industry and in communities.

Method: The goal here is to ensure people stay comfortable along the way, big changes can be scary and tough to stick with. Everything will be done in small steps. Picking a larger change that the team would like to make, it is broken to into smaller pieces that can be progressively implemented. By breaking the change down into smaller pieces the change will be gradual and provide everyone with an opportunity to adjust at each step. This should lead to more comfort with change and in the end make participants comfortable with trying new things.

I was initially thinking one change a week, but I think every two (or even three) weeks provides a chance to discuss, revise and revisit the change. At the end of each week the team discusses the change that was made. The initial meeting is to discuss what worked, what didn't, and how to move forward into the second week. During the second (and third) meeting the team can discuss if the change was successful or if it needs to be revised and retried before moving on to the next step. 

Specifically: I think a great project to try this procedure out on is to remove the negative connotations surrounding failure and make it a desired learning opportunity. Some initial steps I was considering:

1. Display quotes about failure around the classroom. For instance:

  • I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work. -- Thomas A. Edison
  • Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better. -- Samuel Beckett
  • It's fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure. -- Bill Gates

During this phase team discussions can center around what the students are saying about the quotes. Make note of students looking at the quotes, discussing the quotes, or asking about the quotes.

2. Start class discussions about the failure quotes. Ask the class about the quotes. Maybe spend 5 minutes a day discussing one.

  • Do they feel that they are positive or negative?
  • Move into discussing failure in general, what is scary about it?

During this phase team discussions can be about student responses. Work towards finding what students are worried about.

3. Rather than changing something in the classroom, this step could be focused on reflecting on individual failures and personal ideas of what failure is. The team can discuss their own opinions, working toward sharing some personal failures and reactions to them. This may be a longer step as we try to become comfortable with our own failures.

4. Share some of your own failures with your class. Emphasis what you learned from the experience. Make it positive and promote a feeling that it is OK to fail.

Team discussions can be working towards developing an appropriate method to move into the next phase.

5. Now try and get students to share their failures. This can be very intimidating for students, so perhaps having them anonymously submitting their failures may be best. These can than be discussed.

At some point it may be a good idea to post failures like quotes, or even have students develop their own quotes that put a positive spin on failure.

6. From here I think things will evolve during team meetings as to what to do next. The eventual goal is to encourage everyone, the team and students, to risk failure and try new things. Have an idea? Share it or try to implement it. 

What if it doesn't work?

Did you try something and it didn't work? Awesome, you were successful. You tried something new.

Did you make it part way and it didn't work out? Great, you still implemented changes and were innovated. 

By just making an attempt you have been successful at being innovative. It wasn't a drastic change, but something small and easy to recover from. Time to try something new.


Original Post

I have often seen blog posts about improving your photography by taking one picture every day. Many people say it has made a big difference in their creativity and ability. You can check out and for some inspiration. This can translate into a routine to inspire innovation in the classroom.

Team up with some colleagues and develop a list of small changes that you can make within your classrooms. Stick with things that can be implemented and evaluated over the course of a week. Each week pick a change to make and everyone try it out. At the end of the week get together and share your successes and failures with your change. Then pick another change to try out the next week.

If you pick changes that are outside your comfort zones and challenging, you can inspire innovation amongst yourselves.

Update - Aug-25-2015 7:38 AM PST

Selecting your changes:  The initial hurdle is going to be selecting what changes to make. One option is to make changes that build towards a larger goal; break down a larger initiative into smaller phases. Another is to try more independent changes that aren't necessarily building towards a larger project. In the latter case, the changes would be better if they were themed somehow.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Jennifer Auten

I work with 2nd graders, so we are at a different level of discussion. However, we have talked about "failure" and perseverance. Students built boats to hold pennies without sinking. After the 1st iteration they met and discussed what didn't work, what they saw in the boats of other teams that they wanted to incorporate, and then they tried again. We then met whole class to discuss what they learned by creating boats that didn't work the 1st time and how observation, brainstorming and discussion led to improvement and new learning.

Students have also been reflecting (on post its, so they aren't faced with a huge piece of paper) on what has been hard so far but what they have done to improve--ask for help, try a different way, draw a picture, etc.

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