The amazing George Couros has offered up inspiration for this blog post by asking us to consider one of the elements of the Innovator’s Mindset, and I’d like to talk about risk takers.
A couple of years ago, I was fortunate to receive a Rowland fellowship–an incredible opportunity for Vermont educators to transform learning in their schools. As part of this work, I formed a steering committee, which I deemed the “RFCC”–Rowland Foundation Cannonball Committee–a name which embodies the way I encourage its members to operate. Our mission is this:
to recapture the adventure in learning through the use of technology and game-based learning
and that requires a willingness to take risks–that is, to cannonball. Sometimes you just have to jump in, right? Sometimes the best way isn’t a toe wading in the water, or a scoop by the foot to test it out–sometimes, you have to plunge in with abandon, limbs wrapped tightly and maximum height employed, when you try something new.
I’m making an assumption about those who avoid risks: they fear failure and they fear change. I recognize and respect these fears, especially as someone who abhors disappointing people and who can get just as comfortable with the way things are as anyone. But I’ve been forced into change over the last five years, much of it against my will, and I remain as eager and inspired as ever to direct my energy into making positive change in our schools.
My steering committee is a group of teachers who bravely experiment with new approaches, recreate their lessons to incorporate new tools, and in general, iterate. By having them as models at our school, we begin to build a culture where cannonballing is revered–because it gets results.
Take Chris Bologna for example. He teaches social studies to 7th and 8th graders at our school, and recently created a Breakout game to help students explore our constitutional amendments. Check out the game launch–where he lines up the “prisoners” in short order– in this video:
— Lori Lisai (@lorilisai) March 12, 2017
Or take Ryan Farran, who decided this year to completely overhaul his approach to teaching math by incorporating Dreambox for practice and a flipped model using TES Blendspace, all hosted by Schoology. He takes you through his process here.
These are just a couple of teachers taking risks at our school to engage our students and try innovative ways to teach curriculum. As Couros says in The Innovator’s Mindset, “Risk is necessary to ensure that we are meeting the needs of each unique student. Some respond well to one way of learning, while others need a different method or format” (51). These teachers are taking risks–modeling failure when it happens, and more importantly, grit that develops when they model how they move through any failures. In truth, there have been far more successes, as demonstrated in the engaged looks on these student faces.
Couros, George. 8 Characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset. Digital image. The Principal of Change. N.p., 14 Mar. 2015. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.