So out of this whole classroom design/blog experience I've been documenting here, I have a new part time job next fall. For one day a week, I will be a Classroom Innovation Teacher. My main responsibilities will be to spread the word about innovations that are going on in my district, to help people develop their innovations, and to continue to explore my own innovations. I am pretty excited about the job as I get to stay at my present school (which I love) and I get to go and see other interesting things that are happening.
I envision that the way I will report out about the innovations will be by a monthly district email summarizing what I see. The email will just be a brief synopsis of the classroom innovation, but I will also post an online magazine/blog that has a fuller description with video, documents, pictures or any other artifacts I can put on line. The email will link to the blog, and the blog will include contact information for the teachers and the ideas I profile.
When I heard about the job, I thought it was a really good idea. Schools seem to do a good job of getting big ideas (like big projects, initiatives, or fundraising) out to the public. But what about smaller but great ideas that might only be interesting to other teachers? I run into people and hear about the innovative things that are happening in their classroom, and I think, "Why don't I know about this? Why doesn't everyone know about this?" Good ideas need to be shared, but we did not really have a mechanism for getting the ideas out to other teachers.
I was working in a multi-district project, and I met some really fantastic teachers. They had no idea how great they were though. There was this one guy who really inspired me because of his passion and his clear, workable ideas. The really sad part was that he was ready to give up on teaching because he didn't think what he was doing was any good. He was from a smaller district so there were not a lot of opportunities for a teacher like him to work with other teachers, get feedback, or mentor less experienced teachers. I am hoping that part of my job will be to recognize outstanding teachers like him, so they feel validated and appreciated. I worked for the district for a few years and I saw how isolated teaching can be. Some schools are really collaborative (like mine, and I am REALLY appreciative of it), but most are not or collaboration just happens in pockets. And because of this isolation, some great teachers go unrecognized, and some innovations die before seeing the light of day. Good ideas need to be shared.
I really want to focus on individual teachers, not large groups, not district initiatives. I want to nurture innovation and help it grow with any interested teachers.
I am still thinking about how everything in this new job is going to look. The blog, I think, will operate like magazine issues. Some will be general issues of the magazine, but others will be focused themes: classroom design (of course), technology, assessment, project-based learning? It depends on what is out there, I guess.
I'll continue to work on my own innovations too. I like to think of myself as innovative, but I don't know sometimes. Sometimes I take an idea from a book or a manual, but because I am impatient, I don't read all of the instructions, so I change the idea or technique into something else. I am also a little lazy, so sometimes I have to be creative and improvise something on the fly. I am also somewhat opportunistic: I've been in many schools and have "borrowed" many good ideas along the way. (Good ideas need to be shared. So I can use them?) And when I get praised for the great idea that I lifted from another teacher, I haven't always been quick to correct anybody. (Sorry Mom.).
Let's see: impatience, laziness, and opportunistic. Hopefully, these aren't the essential seeds of innovation. (But they've worked for me!)