What is best for the learner?
Whether student or teacher, what is best for each as learner is that which builds the capacity to learn and invent on their own with the freedom to act to forge their futures and make the world better because of it. We need to build the capacity of knowledge to empower learners with the confidence that they can invent their world.
To be truly empowered, people need both ownership and autonomy.
How do we frame our work together as educators and with students, all learners, so that we own what we do, with autonomy in our journeys? How do we grow agency in our teachers and students?
Build Trust and Relationships
First step: slide into the path of our students or another teacher to understand each other, to know where we’re from. Build time to listen. Listen. Trust in their choices. Creating an environment of trust warms the willingness to engage; it empowers people with their own agency to make a difference. It’s ripples radiate throughout the community: trust is the sunshine that warms the soul. It builds confidence to risk, to know failure will not be met in a negative way, but as a process to learn, and so builds resilience.
As leaders in education, our job is not to control those whom we serve but to unleash their talent.
Teachers are prepared with professional knowledge; trust them to do so.
Students are prepared with curiosity; trust them to use it.
Disrupt the Routine
Next step: Disrupt the usual. Share leadership: gather solutions and insights from staff, or as teachers, from students. Expect discord in the dialogue:
Innovation often comes from conflict and disagreement, not in an adversarial way but in a way that promotes divergent thinking…to actually create a better idea– perhaps one that merges multiple, shared ideas.
Step Out of The Way
Third step: Once the idea that voices are not only heard, but also become a contribution to solutions, then the willingness to participate actively increases. Whether in improving school programs as teachers or developing pathways to learning projects as students, once the doing has been their choice with their voice, the foundation of agency grows.
Teachers own and offer their ideas, collaborating with others to improve student learning. Students own their learning, thinking as authors, mathematicians, historians, scientists, musicians, artists, engineers, leaders, etc. Yes, both teachers and students become leaders: organizers, designers, collaborators, being flexible and team players. They see themselves as creators rather than consumers, contributors rather than recipients.
Celebrate the Culture
Fourth Step: Reflect on the growth. Review for improvement. Once the community of learners, educators and students, moves towards the mindset that each is a vital participant, leading or following as needed, then step back and reflect on what worked and why. Share successes. Soon what didn’t work will come forward. Design next steps from both. And begin the transparency of reflective processes to continue the development of a culture of learning and a culture of innovation. That might look like blogs or portfolios, but sharing is key to continued reflective practice.
Finally, identify how the journey has created new and better solutions and processes for the school or classroom. Celebrate the innovative ideas, successful or needing revision: each risk comes from the willingness of everyone to build a better community within the school and without. Celebrate and share in social media so others can learn, the community is informed, and progress is curated. The feedback locally and globally will add ideas and further innovation.
Continue the Journey
An innovative culture builds agency, whereby its participants feel trusted, are confident to voice ideas, co-create solutions, own the process, and act in collaboration with other participants to make the community better. Educators and students alike learn and grow w together in such a culture.
As we discussed progress in developing the foundation for innovation in our Voxer group, a Google Slices for crowdsourcing suggestions and experiences for innovative professional development or meetings awaits your participation so we all can share in an open way to bring an innovative culture to our own situations with the input of all participants. Please enjoy, use, and add your own:
Geeky Gramma ~~
Retired Middle School Language Arts Teacher ~~
Writer and Thinker