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