As I have been reading The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros I am drawn to his thinking on using what we know and understand to generate new thinking. A couple of years ago I read Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley and as I read, my thinking around the work I do with staff, students, and parents was forever changed. They expressed that by utilizing empathy to drive your work makes it more purposeful, meaningful, and will change the world. Honestly, it makes it about those that you serve instead of about you. Education is about people…every time. We can get hung up on the details and lose sight of the why or who we serve without self-reflection. I try to take time each day to look back through the eyes of who I work with. George’s writing continues to remind me of this thinking.
George describes in Chapter 1 the idea of teacher as designer by looking at designing experiences based on the needs of the learner. This requires a shift in the way we have traditionally looked at curriculum, instruction, and differentiation. As educators we traditionally understand the content and learning theory that provides the students the optimal atmosphere for them to grow and develop in their understanding of information and how to apply it to new understanding. It is complex, but my question is do we make it more complex by trying to simplify it to meet the needs of all learners instead of looking through the eyes of each learner to start the process of connecting based on where they are at? Would the complex become more clear if we began with the learners at the center and beginning of the process? I believe so and am reminded of this the more I work with remarkable people that put learners (regardless of age) in the center of decision making. From a professional development standpoint, I have found this same approach to be incredibly powerful. I believe every person is on a learning journey and I have the honor to be part of it. My role is to continue the growth and deepening of understanding.
I have a paper hanging at my workstation. It is from a design thinking kit for educators from Design Thinking for Educators (http://www.designthinkingforeducators.com). It reads, “If you remember only a few things…” One of the things is “You are a designer.” and it goes on to describe the importance of listening to your stakeholders and be inspired to design for them. Whenever I struggle with decision making in my work I go to one place for clarity, the classroom. Most of my time spent in these classrooms is me listening and observing learners and their interactions with each other, the teacher, and the tools they are using for their learning. It is remarkable what you can learn and understand from these interactions, but what I am most inspired by is the humanness of learning no matter how much of it is on a digital device. With all of the advances in regards to technology it means nothing if the humans are forgotten in the process.
George is completely correct when he talks about how it all begins with the human connection. If you haven’t read this book, please take the time to read it. You will not be disappointed.