Five Ways to Increase Innovation

Photo by Celestine Chua
Photo by Celestine Chua

 

“Research shows 52 percent of employees are frustrated at work because leaders don’t support their ideas or empower their creativity.”  This statement was in the beginning of an article written by Michelle Smith.  I know that I have been in that 52% in the past, as I’m sure many of you have been.  The article was more about generating and growing ideas in the workplace.  Most of it, however, translated (in my mind, at least) into educator professional development, and into their classrooms.  How can we foster innovation in ourselves and our students?

  1. Own your fears, so they can’t own your classroom. Change is inevitable in the world of education, but never so much so as in the last few years.  It has left teachers overwhelmed, underfunded (nothing new there), and a bit fearful.  They are expected to raise standardized test scores, integrate technology, adapt curriculum to new standards, teach character education, make learning engaging, and oh yeah, remember to love the kids. We’ve all heard that we can’t keep doing something just because it’s the way we’ve always done it.  The problem is, it’s fear of change that often keeps us locked into the current routines.  Let’s take technology integration.  A big fear is that the students will know more than the teachers about technology.  This might be true, but it might not.  That’s not the issue.  The issue is that teachers need to accept the fact that their students really might know more.  And that’s perfectly okay.  It’s great even, because then those students can be given a leadership role in showing the teacher how to do something.  They will take more ownership in the classroom, and the teacher will show that she/he values student-centered learning.
  2. Set goals to try something new on a regular basis. If you just say that you will try something new, chances are that it won’t happen.  Set short term goals, and long term goals, and don’t be afraid to change them.  And then, here is one of the most important parts.  Schedule a time to work towards that goal.  Actually put it on your calendar, and stick to it.  Even if you only devote thirty minutes a week toward a goal, just do it.  Any activity is better than no activity.
  3. Be a team player.  “Innovations are typically team efforts that are best led by passionate improvement co-champions.” (6 Ways The Best Leaders Innovate And Bring Great Ideas To Life By Michelle Smith)  I foster my own personal and professional development through collaborating with other people.  Twitter and LinkedIn are two of my favorite (and easiest) places to connect.  I can ask questions, discuss ideas, and gain knowledge all while building a powerful network.  Smith also encourages us to “Reach across functional boundaries and tap into the talent of others.”  This works in the classroom, as well when you allow students to collaborate, and make passion-based learning a norm. The students will become more innovative through working with their peers.
  4. Facilitate learning to enhance critical and creative thinking skills.  We can all increase our level of critical thinking and creativity.  These aren’t isolated skills that we can test our students on a standardized test.  They are, however, the best skills we can nurture to help them be successful after high school.  I have heard, “I’m just not creative” often from other adults. I think that is false.  We all contain the ability to be creative, we just need to find where that creativity takes root. I like to create in the kitchen.  I have almost no home decorating skills, but I can create some pretty tasty dishes.  This is where 20% time, genius hour, passion projects, etc. come into play in the classroom.  Not only are students driving their own learning, but it is in an area where they can allow their creative thinking skills to bloom.
  5. Smile.  I understand that this last one might sound a bit hokey, but stick with me.  It really is part of  Be open-minded, take risks, embrace failure as progress, and have fun doing it.  And if you can do all of these things, you will smile as you become more innovative.  Life is just better when you are having fun living it.

 


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