FedEx Prep: A Reflection

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In October, I posted an idea here called FedEx Prep: Time For Innovation.  Based on the ideas discussed by Daniel Pink, in his book “Drive“, the idea was to increase innovation in our school by offering something that is needed: time.  Now, I realize that the FedEx Day (Based on the idea from Atlassian) is supposed to be short-term so this is more like “Google Time”  but FedEx Prep had a bit more of a ring to it and, in the end, the teachers had to deliver their ideas.  The proposal was this:

  • I will provide you with an extra prep per week (“A Fed Ex or Innovation Prep”) for 6 straight weeks.  This would be prep-free for you as I would prep whichever subject the you would like.  The time is also negotiable (ie. if you would rather have 2 periods a week for 3 weeks).
  • This time will be self-directed to ANYTHING you want with the only goal that you must DELIVER your ideas.
  • I also encourage you to use one of your professional days to provide further time (teachers in our district, under their contract are provided with a few extra pro-d days to use if they wish)

So, how did it go?

Following my presentation to the staff, out of 16 teachers, I had 3 apply; I agreed to cover their classes at different times of the year so I could fulfill each request. Although I did not ask, the teachers wanted to tell me what the area in which they were interested; two teachers were interested in exploring education technology and one was interested embedding learning in our beautiful school garden into the curricula.

At our school, we have a number of hard-working, passionate teachers; I will say, however, that we are not a tech-savvy school.  The first teacher that I covered wanted to explore student blogging.  At the time, we had no classes/students blogging.  I helped her with some initial resources – links, blog posts, videos, – on how to get started.  She then spent 3 classes researching the process of teaching blogging as well as ideas from other teachers and students while I worked with her class on topics such as using strengths and passion and demonstrating leadership.  She spent one class doing a paper blogging activity and had me come and present the power of blogging to the class for a few minutes.  For the last 2 classes, I helped her in the class get her kids started.  As with pretty much every other class that blogs, her students fell in love with it.  Students who did not like writing actually enjoyed blogging (“writing in disguise”).  The product was often better than the would-be paper version as students knew others would read it.  Students who would not normally talk to one another commented in the blogosphere and then started to talk to each other in person.  They blogged about ideas for our Identity Day as well as issues they face as grade 6 students (6th graders for those of you in the US ;-) ).  In addition, the kids were so excited that when the teacher spoke to other teachers, they too became interested.  By the end of the year, four out of the five intermediate classes were blogging – both from school and from home.

The second teacher that wanted to explore using our school garden (which she, along with a few other students and teachers, had designed and created) more into the curriculum unfortunately had to go on medical leave so we were unable to make this one work.

The third teacher was an experienced teacher who was teaching a grade 1/2 class.  She was completing her teacher-librarian program and during this, was exposed to a number of education technology ideas and wanted to try some of them with her class (she was already in the beginning stages of using ed tech  in her class).  She only used four classes, of which I taught her students Hip-Hop (yeah, baby!), and during this time, she researched, created, and improved lessons around blogging, Glogster, Comic Life, VoiceThread, and Flickr.  She implemented her ideas with her students and then showcased her lessons to our staff as well as to the Board of Education (as part of our school highlights).  Next year, she is becoming our teacher-librarian and is in the process of transforming the library into a Learning Commons Area and modernizing the role of the teacher-librarian in our school.

So, would I offer the “Innovation Prep” again?  Absolutely!  For starters, I did nothing other than steal somebody’s idea and bring it to our school.  I did not have to do anything other than do what I love: teach and spend time with kids!  All this idea did was give time to teachers to expand on their ideas and use their strengths in a way that benefits kids.  Not only did it benefit the teachers who took advantage of this time but it also helped as when the ideas were delivered, they spread to other classes.

Daniel Pink, based on the research of Deci and Ryan, discusses the importance of autonomy, mastery, and purpose.  In our current system with limited time and budgets, we, as administrators, need to be creative in providing our staff and students with these important aspects so we can create an innovative environment.  Majority of educators are passionate people who want to model learning, innovation, and do what is best for kids; if we can provide teachers with the time and autonomy to do this, it is our students who will ultimately benefit.  I encourage you to try the Innovative Prep at your school and let me know how it goes.

For more ideas on how to use similar strategies with staff and students, please check out Lyn Hilt’s post Inspiration Delivers and Josh Stumpenhorst’s post Innovation Day.

Thanks to OttawaBrent and his comment for the idea to write this post.

12 comments for “FedEx Prep: A Reflection

  1. July 13, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    Daniel Pink is so insightful in what he shares. What a robust and energized building we all would have when students and faculty are encouraged to pursue interests and ideas alongside regular coursework/prep (which they already do) and then SHARE IT with the learning community.

  2. July 14, 2011 at 3:05 am

    Interesting idea, I hadn’t thought about giving teachers a FedEx day. If I was teaching at your school I totally would have taken you up on the offer!

    I have included a “FedEx Project” in my high school Anatomy & Physiology class for the past two years. The project has stretched both my students and myself.

    You can read my reflection here: http://electriceducator.blogspot.com/2011/01/reflection-fedex-project.html

    FYI, Atlasian is the company that originated the idea of a “FedEx Day”. They are very supportive of others picking up on the idea. They were kind enough to send my students and I some of their left over FedEx Day t-shirts. It was a great way to end our semester.

  3. July 14, 2011 at 4:00 am

    Chris,

    This is a great post, and one I needed to read today more than anything. It is so important to recognize that although only three teachers may have responded, it is, nonetheless a start. This is also a fantastic example of what Lyn Hilt refers to as being not only a leader and a manager, but also an instructional leader in the 21st century. ( http://plpnetwork.com/2011/07/11/all-principals-should-be-tech-savvy/)

    A few weeks ago, I was helping a former student of mine, now in college, gather resources for an educational leadership paper. As a powerful PLN would have it, you, Lyn, George Couros, Patrick Larkin, Dabid Truss and Chris Lehmann, amongst others were quick to respond with a number of fantastic book recommendations. Of course, Drive was one of them and I can honestly say that book would rank among one of the top ten things that transformed my own teaching practice this year, as I’d read it when it first came out. You modeled a great example of playing out the principles Pink lays forth and successfully so.

    I needed to hear this today as I am in day three of an intense, on-campus residency beginning my administrative certification in PA. Don’t get me wrong, the program is great and obviously a necessary stepping stone, but after sitting through several days of bland PPT’s, hard-core data analysis, liability, procedure, policy, standardization, common core, etc., some discouragement set in. I kept thinking, “Where’s the passion? Where’s the drive?”. We were even asked if we were certain principalship is what we really wanted… long hours, major responsibility, etc. in a manner that almost seemed intent to discourage us from continuing on. There was no remote semblance of #cpchat in the room and I felt, well, kind of lost. I needed to read this today as a solid reminder that there are others out there that ‘get’ what I get. It makes it a bit easier to trudge onward through the red tape and do best to enjoy the journey along the way. You’re reaching many more teachers beyond your school. Thank you for that!

  4. Roxanne
    July 14, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    Once again the pebble hits the pond:)

  5. July 15, 2011 at 2:19 am

    Chris,
    Great post! I too read the Fed-Ex post this year and jumped right in to Pink and to the idea of giving the professionals the resource that they scream for and need more than any other…TIME to think, plan and innovate. I choose to have a Fed-Ex day on one of our few professional development days. It was well received and my teachers amazed me with what they showed. They collaborated, interdisciplinary teams met, people worked individually and at the end of the day everyone was definitely better today than they were yesterday. I invited our new superintendent to stop by and he was blown away as well. The best part is that it not stop at the end of that day, teachers have jumped in and bring me new things daily. I have convinced a few to follow on twitter and have a group signed up for a PLP next year. I like your idea and will probably do something similar next year. Thanks for the motivation.

  6. July 15, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    Thanks for posting your updates, Chris! I loved Drive and think my teachers had a very meaningful day this year when provided with the time for autonomous learning and project work. I wish I had more control over the schedule during in-service days. Through the feedback we received after many PD days this year, there was a resounding amount of support and appreciation for time given to teachers to engage in learning of THEIR CHOICE. Still focused on district goals and student learning, but learning with and from peers and administrative colleagues is so powerful. How can we ignore feedback like that?

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