Saturday, December 26, 2015

Adele is not an innovator. But who cares?

I've been listening to Adele's latest, 25, and I'm loving it.  It is everything one might expect from an Adele release: big, emotional songs.  Lots of adjectives come to mind  while I listen to the songs: genuine, cathartic, heart-felt.

But the word that does not come to mind is innovative.  When I think of innovation in popular music, I think of Jimi Hendrix, Madonna, David Bowie, or Moby.  Each of them is an innovator because they found ways to create new sounds or almost new genres of music.  Adele hasn't really created an avant-garde sound or a different way of making music.  If anything, her style hearkens back to someone like Edith Piaf who used soaring vocals to tug at people's heart strings.

Adele's gimmick is just pure talent.  She "gets by" by pairing songs that speak to people's innermost feelings and powerful vocals.

Similarly, good teachers do not have to innovative.  I know I write and think about innovation all the time.  I have read dozens of books about innovation (with respect to teaching and not at all related to teaching).  I have been in lots of schools and hundreds of classrooms.  I like innovation and I seek innovation, but I also realize that innovation is not the Holy Grail of teaching.

I have seen very workman-like teachers who are very effective.  They do not create much in the way of new material or strategies, but their students still learn a lot.  These teachers, like good singers, find ways to interpret other people's content or methods that really reach learners.  Conversely, I have seen very innovative teachers whose students did not seem to be getting much learning done. Sometimes, these innovative teachers had so much going on that it was hard to focus in on what students were supposed to be learning.

For me, I will still continue to seek new ways of reaching my students minds.  I try to be forward thinking while still using some tried and true methods from the past, and I try not to be judgemental of teachers who spend a lot of time in either of those camps.  

If I did have to pick one trait that I have witnessed increase the efficacy of teachers, it would have to be engagement.  Effective teachers seem to be able to engage the hearts and minds of their students. Just like Adele.