When we think about our current K to 12 educational system – do we characterize it as innovative and creative? Unfortunately, chances are many people would answer no – yet that is precisely what some educators are trying to change. The real test or challenge is not really a question around wanting to become learning centres where innovation and creativity can thrive but rather how to create new movements that can begin to change our current system. A task that perhaps we sometimes make more daunting than it needs to be.
If we look at our educational system today – how much has it really changed over the last century? Do schools and the way we teach look and feel so different now than before? If not, why has educational progress been so slow as compared to some other industries that peril if they are not leading in their respective fields? I recently had the opportunity to attend this year’s BCSSA Winter Conference that brought these questions again to the forefront. The theme for the 2012 Educational Leadership Conference was “Pathways to Personalization: Shifting Practice and Traditions” with a diverse group of speakers that included: Charles Leadbeater, Larry Rosenstock, Honourable George Abbott, John Abbott and Bruce Beairsto. Leading and transforming together emerged as a common theme.
Innovation draws parallels with change – it can sound exciting but can be painful and can often fail. Charles Leadbeater remarks that you know you need innovation but hate to do it. Further, he highlights several innovation myths that contradict reality:
Myth / Reality
Flash of insight / Comes from immersion
Brilliant idea / Fail early and often
Individualistic / Collaborative
Invention / Mostly development
Originality / Borrowing
Product pipeline / Consumer as innovator
The third point is an intriguing one since collaboration is not necessarily viewed as innovative but rather an essential ingredient to success. Yet true collaborative networks are innovative as it fosters the development of ideas, trial and error, authentic dialogue and can lead to organized movements that challenge and ultimately change the system. Larry Rosenstock, CEO of High Tech High and a true linchpin, has pioneered exactly that with his successful public charter schools turning the traditional educational model upside down and challenging status quo. I am looking forward to my visit this month to see first hand.
I recently fininshed Seth Godin’s book, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? which posits that being successful is a matter of choice and not settling for average. He further questions what schools are teaching kids today and emphasizes that fitting in, listening to instructions, not questioning authority are all things that our society does not need. In other words, these are not attributes of being indispensable. Those words triggered a flashback to my first grad speech from the 2009 Seycove Valedictory Ceremony where I shared the following life lessons:
- Do not settle for mediocrity – a positive mindset has no boundaries.
- Learn from your successes but also your failures – “Only those who ever dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly” -Robert Kennedy
- Be resilient – adversity is part of life but use it to your advantage and make it an opportunity.
- Foster good relationships – trust, respect, consideration are all essential for building healthy relationships.
- Find your passion – it is one thing to be good at something but quite another to enjoy it.
After reading these over again it became obvious that these life lessons require constant reflection as they are not only appropriate for a high school graduating class excited about the future ahead but are equally vital for those of us established in our careers. I must say I am optimistic with the innovation that is taking place amongst educators who are challenging the status quo and not settling for excuses as to why change and innovation cannot take place. A believer in the statement ‘actions speak louder than words,’ I am looking forward to sharing in a subsequent post an innovative project that is taking hold at Seycove Secondary.
I would love to hear your comments and innovative ideas that are taking hold in your school or organization.