Being innovative can be lonely.
Just consider these famous innovators: Nikola Tesla, Alan Turing, Steve Jobs
If you know their stories, you know that they faced great adversity, in the form of doubt, even opposition, to their ideas. Their brilliant inventions did not necessarily bring them happiness, relationships, or respect.
Our teachers pursuing out-of-the-box thinking can experience isolation as well.
I met recently with a small group of teachers who share a passion for innovation and are trying out similar new ideas in their classrooms. This was not a formal meeting or PD event, but an organic “pop-up” meeting, if you will. Based on the #coffeeEDU concept, these teachers reached out to each other on Twitter, where they had all met before during #cusdlearns chats or via their shared Twitter connections, to organize an informal get-together. Several of them had not met each other in person yet, although we all work in the same small district. It’s amazing how easily classroom teachers can feel like we are on our own island with only the children to keep us company.
We’d all been drawn together over the last few months by threads on Twitter on topics including digital portfolios, flexible learning environments, station rotation model, personalized learning through playlists, project based learning, and student-led conferences. The teachers have been implementing new practices based on these topics in their classrooms and even leading school-wide implementations, to varying degrees. In some cases, they have been operating alone while in other cases that had supportive colleagues willing to follow their lead. But all of them were wanting – needing – more support and connection to buoy them up.
The digital connections and conversations have been helpful, even essential, but these teachers are so passionate about what they are pursuing that they wanted to meet in person, on their free time. All it took was a tweet over the Winter Break from one of our most enthusiastic teacher-innovators, @MarisaEThompson , and nearly a dozen positive responses came back – yes, while we were all on winter break!
The actual gathering which took place after school resumed was small; only four of us could make it on a Saturday morning, but so worth it. Not only did these teachers get to share ideas, ask each other questions, and get feedback on their plans from like-minded professionals, but they could see and feel that they, indeed, were not alone.
Since then, I’ve heard (or read on Twitter) about progress being made on several of the areas we discussed. Student-led conferences have happened at two schools, students are producing impressive digital portfolios, and two teachers are preparing to share their insights and experiences with wider audiences at upcoming education conferences.
It’s exciting to see the momentum that begins when teachers are inspired and empowered to innovate. I think this wave is building in size and shape, and Carlsbad teachers are ready to ride!