The students of today must learn to learn, unlearn, and then relearn. They must learn how to communicate what they know both verbally and in writing; they must learn to think critically, collaborate with others, and to be creative. This is the essence of innovation. If we truly want to improve our schools, our communities and leaders must support a culture of innovation where the expectations for teachers are not just more than the expectations of the past, but rather different from the past.
Creating a culture of innovation means that teachers must feel comfortable trying the new techniques expected of them without fear of consequences. Lectures and worksheets are a sure-fire way to “cover” the curriculum, but they are inauthentic and only marginally effective in terms of real and lasting learning. Support for this type of innovation has to come not only from building-level administration, but also from district and legislative administration.
So how do we teach students to be innovative? To create a culture of innovation, students and teachers must feel safe to fail. I realize that sounds counter-intuitive, but if you think about it, a person cannot develop perseverance if they never have the opportunity to fail and try again. For teachers, by no means do I suggest that they should intentionally fail, but I do intend to suggest that teachers should take risks with intention.
What if we created a culture where “failures” are celebrated because failing means you tried something new or different? As long as we fail forward, then we make progress, relationships are strengthened, and students and teachers both grow. This shifts the focus off the end product and on to the process of learning, which is more beneficial for students and for our communities.
Innovation is risky for both students and teachers. But if an innovative lesson “fails,” then a teacher gets the opportunity to model failure. Teachers can model grit and tenacity, they can model self-reflection, and then they can ask their students (as well as their coaches) for feedback and for collaborative help to right the ship. Teachers can reflect- what could have been done differently? This empowers teachers—and students— and helps them to take ownership of their learning. Thankfully, this more inquiry-based approach is supported by the Common Core. This is different than the way we have done it in the past, and it can only happen in a culture that celebrates innovation.