One of my favorite things about this chapter is that it starts out with a short story about a teacher who left the classroom for a few years and upon her return was surprised at how much had changed. Not wanting to be left behind, she began reaching out and pushing herself out of her comfort zone to create new and meaningful opportunities for her students. Throughout the chapter, George returns to that teacher in applying one of the characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset.
The eight characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset are: Empathetic, Problem Finders (love this!), Risk-Takers, Networked, Observant, Creators, Resilient, and Reflective. The characteristic that stands out most to me is that of being a risk-taker. While for a lot of people standing in front of a group of kids and talking can be very risky, most teachers do not have a fear of public speaking. Rather, it is much riskier to open yourself up to something you’re not comfortable with. For me this involves asking for feedback from teachers and staff on my professional development offerings and training sessions. It can be challenging and a bit scary to ask for feedback, especially from teachers with whom you don’t have much of a relationship. Being split among several buildings makes it hard to really build a meaningful rapport with teachers and it can be scary to ask for feedback. Of course, this constructive feedback is crucial for our own personal growth and can push us to improve and change – to innovate. George asks at the end of the chapter: “What risk might you take to change learning experiences?” For me this includes asking for feedback at every session, not just a few select meetings. Beyond that, it’s important to evaluate the feedback with an objective eye and take it as a way to grow. It can be hard to listen to feedback without immediately getting defensive or trying to explain our decisions. While some of that is a natural response, it doesn’t do much to push me to grow or improve.
The other characteristic of the Innovator’s Mindset that really resonated with me was that of Resiliency. No one needs to tell teachers that their job is difficult. We know it better than anyone. And it can get really hard to continue to feel positive and excited about your work when you are pulled so thin and stretched in so many different directions. The focus on testing and data has made creativity and innovation feel more and more challenging and out of reach. Teachers must be resilient in the face of these difficulties. By embracing the amazing things are kids are doing and seeking out meaningful learning opportunities for our students, teachers can practice this characteristic.
What about you? Which characteristic(s) of The Innovator’s Mindset resonates with you?
Questions for Discussion:
- What risk might you take to change learning experiences?
- How might you create an environment that fosters risk-taking?
- How do you exhibit the innovator’s mindset in the learning and work that you do currently?