Today is Easter. So in a family of engineers and educators, we talk about re-branding businesses, growing ipad initiatives, and CHANGING THE WORLD (as you do...) around the Easter supper table. So. Since out of school on a luxuriating 4-day weekend, my first #onecreativething isn't coming from the world of education. Not directly... My brother, cousin, and I sat around the table across from empty plates and platters full of peeps and jelly beans. We were doing the normal catching up - quickly realizing that although we are all working in different fields, we are all working towards a similar goal - change. My grandpa, a former nuclear engineer, inventor, and all-around smartest guy I've ever met, joined us as I was explaining Everett Rogers' Diffusion of Innovation model and how it's been helping me drive culture change in my school district. Grandpa was, of course, aware of Rogers' 1962 research and talked with us about his trajectory change experiences (whether political, educational, or NUCLEAR).
He told us a story of how, when he worked at a local power plant, he was part of a team who conducted thorough and extensive research from the top to the bottom of the organization as to WHY a potentially disastrous moment occurred. Who was at fault? Of course there must be someone to BLAME...but there was not. The power plant, along with many businesses and industries, were going through rapid changes in how they communicated. There were just beginning to be multiple ways that the organization communicated with one another. It could have been a mis-communication during a shift change...or a call that didn't go through. They were experimenting with new in-house communication systems - baby email - that may have caused communication breakdowns. After gaining this understanding, my grandpa worked to try to transform how power plants across the country functioned in communication using not only technology but also his deep knowledge of PEOPLE. He used the work of Rogers to think about how to change the system from top to bottom to ensure safety for everyone. He worked to create a communication structure that held laggards accountable to the RULES while pushing for open-communication about potential mishaps, mistakes, or safety violations. He worked with teams to find creative solutions to difficult problems across huge systems.
We walked away from this conversation, and my grandpa whispered to me, "it's good to hear my grandchildren are working to change the world." We are. All in our own ways. Although it's easy to compartmentalize people by their careers or passions, it is blindingly evident that CREATIVITY is necessary and essential, whether to build systems of communication in the nuclear power world, to create better customer service model to support growth and change, to rebrand a restaurant into a blooming breakfast spot, or design a system of support to transform learning. Problems require creativity. They require us to think about things from a different perspective. Change requires creativity - and in this one particular area - we must be creative in how we think about how to make change happen. We must be strategic and calculating, but also open to multiple possibilities. This crazy story my grandfather told us today will stick with me for awhile. He's been one of these innovative people before it was cool, working behind the scenes, making change happen. He said he doesn't even like to use the word innovative about himself, because it makes other people feel like they're not innovative. So true. So true. Well grandpa, I'll name you. You are an innovator. You always have been. Remember when you let us take apart your first computer just to see what was inside? Remember how you learned how to sew so you could build your own pop-up tent? And now, you are still shaking things up at the local democratic council meetings. This is getting all sappy, but I cannot tell you what your influence has done for me. Thanks for the questions. Thanks for the curiosity. Thanks for the confidence to make change.
Every so often, like going to the dentist for a cleaning, school leaders need to check on the plaque line of their building. I know, gross metaphor, but hold with me. Ever so gradually and definitely with subtly, an erosion of morale and confidence a staff has for their work creeps up into the gums and starts to eat away at the productive, work of teaching children. And we lose a sense of what really matters. If, as building leaders, we don't take the time to do some serious, down and dirty check up and maintenance of our vision and mission for the work of our building we are doomed to decay, just like so many rotting molars.
Last week we worked with a local consultant who guided us through the process of checking up on our core beliefs, vision and mission for our middle school staff, students, and community. Before we got started on the messy but glorious vision and mission work, we had some popcorn and clementines while mulling over the hashtag = #WHYITEACH. The great folks at @Teacher2Teacher have created an excellent #WhyITeach toolkit that includes tweet bubbles, hashtags, posters, and promotional material to share your reflections via social media. This toolkit has everything needed to encourage colleagues to take a moment out of the day to reflect on why we got into this crazy, but always rewarding profession and share it out with their community. It was a very quick (took me about 10 minutes to print and set up), inspiring way to start our afternoon and generated loads of discussion about using twitter to build up that PLN! We had a blast taking pictures and sharing our love for learning! Take a few minutes to refresh your vision and encourage your staff to tell the important story of the work of your school.
Thanks @Teacher2Teacher for this free resource!
Register and download the FREE #WhyITeach toolkit here!