I am doing my best to take part in #IMMOOC Season 2 : a world-wide digital book study based on The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. It is week 4.
You can’t build an effective wall if your first foundational layer is weak or non-existent; every time you try to add another layer it will collapse within relatively short order. I love that George has illustrated “Foundations for Innovation” with this wall image.
The high school that I work at is wonderful in so many ways. We have ‘built’ many great programs and traditions in our short 20 year history. But one wall that never gets very tall is the innovation piece. When I consider this image, it all becomes clear: innovation doesn’t flourish in our school because we can’t seem to “Embrace an open culture” – the very base or foundation of the wall in the image.
Most change that we experience is calculated and strategically implemented in response to directives from the province or the school division, but change of the transformative, “this-looks-different”, out-side of the box type doesn’t happen. Of course, like in any school, there have been pockets of innovation. Often times, those innovative ideas have been relatively short bursts of success that haven’t lead to long term change or impact. The wall image would indicate that without an open, collaborative culture, this is to be expected.
Unfortunately, it feels like we are stuck. Some colleagues fall back on the “high schools are just less open, collaborative places” mentality. On the other hand, I work with several collaborative, open, sharing colleagues and some of them do amazing things for and with their students. Yet, because of our lack of open culture, other teachers in the school aren’t even aware of these amazing things. We celebrate sports victories, musical achievements, and art contest successes, but, we don’t have a vehicle for celebrating the cool things that teachers are learning and trying with their students inside the walls of the every-day classroom. At best we might have a spoken staff-meeting moment of some of the things that are happening, but we don’t make or take opportunities to go watch and experience what is happening beyond the doors that line our hallways.
Some of us have been chipping away at creating a more open culture for a few years, but success has been limited. We tried a “pineapple chart” approach a few years ago before there was such thing as a pineapple chart. It was exciting for a few teachers, but fizzled out because the buy-in pool was so limited, despite efforts to grow it.
During #IMMOOC Season 2, I’m enjoying the opportunity to read about what innovation and cultures of sharing look like across the continent. As a non-administrator, I’ll keep encouraging different ways of trying to get a wedge into our not-so-open culture. I know there is no magic bullet, but one day maybe we’ll find some bricks that help to build that “open culture” foundation.
I would love to hear how your high schools work on that open culture piece!