A student wondered out loud what all the fuss was about being "innovative." In fact, what did that even mean? Great question. One we discussed for a while before coming to a consensus. This is the latest buzz word in education. Look at just about any education-focused blog and chances are there's been at least one post on this concept. Let me join the crowd. Instead of focusing on the word "innovation," let's focus on the implementation of that word.
Change can be scary. Especially when administrators are speaking the latest education-ese in an effort to see teachers foray into these unknown waters. Even our teacher evaluation form has "innovating" as one of the achievement levels upon which teachers are rated. But words aside, what does this mean in a classroom? What does it look like in practice?
Both are great questions, questions I think can be answered in one word: risk-taking (2 words if not used as an adjective). Being innovative isn't some great and glorious teaching method that you have to build yourself up to achieve. It's looking at what you teach, wondering how you can teach it differently, stepping outside of your "normality," and trying a new approach to your teaching.
Just like some people are more risk takers by nature, some teachers are also more willing to think out of step with convention and try something new. That's all innovation really is. This is something possible for everyone, not just a select few really "innovative" people.
I consider myself a risk-taker and creative person, but I don't even hold a match to some of my friends/colleagues who amaze me with what they do in their classes. Nothing is too wild or out of bounds for them. Who benefits from this type of thinking and teaching? Everybody. Not just the students but the teachers as well. Teaching becomes fresh and new, not stale from teaching the same content the same old way. When teachers are excited about what they're doing, kids glam onto it and become more interested as well. Being a risk-taking teacher brings an upside to teaching--everyone wins.
Admittedly, risk-taking lessons bring some angst. Uncertainty about the viability of the lesson. A lack of confidence about implementation. Concern about execution. But the biggest fear may be "what if it fails?" No one likes to fail...or do they? Things I try fail a lot, but then I learn by evaluation what didn't work and modify to try again. In my current set up with the way my school's calendar runs, this is easier for me to work on than other teachers since I usually have multiple chances to readjust what I'm doing.
Innovation. A scary word? Maybe, but it doesn't have to be. Instead of focusing on the definition of the word, hone in on implementation, putting aside feelings of insecurity over whether you will be successful or not. Even in failure, you're a success.
Go ahead. Be innovative. Be a risk taker. It could make all the difference.