This school year, I am a part of a once in a lifetime adventure. I have begun taking innovation to the next level as a Technology Integrationist and Mentor Teacher with a phenomenal elementary staff. As a result, to take this role, I moved to the Kansas City area two months ago to start this electrifying chapter!
My new school was restructured in a variety of ways. We have a brand new combination of staff members coming together for one common purpose: To make learning EXTRAORDINARY. Cultivating innovation is clearly not an easy feat, but it is a must. The individuals, staff, teachers, and principals that were chosen to educate in this environment are out of this world amazing!
It Takes a Team
Our incredible principal- Kevin Lathrom (@KLathrom), our marvelous Assistant Principal- Lauren Malone (@LaurenMalone3TE), and the rock star Director of Technology- Brent Catlett (@catlett1), and I collaborated for weeks during the summer to make learning awesome for kids. The idea of a summer book study came up instantaneously during a school visit, and it excited us all to the core.
Whether you have new staff like us, or not, a book study is a perfect chance to build community, dialogue, and a continuity of common language that can be at the heart of your school vision and mission. This work can be done simultaneously with the pairing of pushing ideas and mindsets to a whole new level, including your own.
The first book that came to our minds was the Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros (@gcouros) – and if you have read it, you know exactly why the title was the first on our list.
If I had to describe the Innovator’s Mindset in one sentence, I would say it is the Educator’s Bible to Innovation. Since we are beginning the 1:1 journey at our school, having the Innovator’s Mindset as a foundational piece of our shared language is crucial; It is not about the devices, and it NEVER should be- it is about innovating HOW we educate.
The way George intertwine’s dialogue and storytelling to transcend his message is unmatched and translates very well to educators.
George has been a tremendous mentor for me in leadership and a remarkable friend- I am eternally grateful, truly. When I was lucky enough to meet him at #METC16 in Saint Louis, MO this February, he pushed me to read his book right away- not next week, but right then and there. In true George-like fashion, he drives your thinking seamlessly, whether in person or by reading his book.
In April, I sent an e-mail to our new staff inviting them to our book study, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive! Team members were excited to get on board and to push mindsets while building relationships before we started our new school year.
Voxer Book Chat
We focused on our book study during the month of June via Voxer. To prepare our staff, I sent out a Google Sheet that included spots for teachers to add their social media accounts, including Voxer. Many teachers then signed-up for Voxer and then added their names to this sheet. I then added everyone into our Voxer group so we that we could discuss the book as a team.
To give some background on the book, there are four parts to the Innovator’s Mindset, which is then divided into chapters. I took these four sections and decided that each week in June would be dedicated to one part of the book. Furthermore, George leaves discussion questions at the end of each chapter, which lends itself very nicely to a book chat format. Therefore, I chose three items from each part that I wanted us to focus on each week.
As I posted the weekly questions, I asked teachers to choose from one of the three questions (or more) to respond to. I encouraged everyone to add in their questions, responses, and takeaways.
But, even before jumping into the book questions, I began our book study with questions that dug deeper to who we are as learners, educators, and family members; This was crucial. We can discuss our reflections to books all day long, but if we do not at least have an idea of who we are as people and what we believe in, the words that we say will lack meaning and understanding.
Also, I posted questions on the same day every week and modeled how to respond by talking or by typing and I encouraged our group to respond in whichever way was most comfortable to them. *This could also be modified to fit as a Twitter Chat, Google+ chat, and beyond.
As a new team, this book study was meaningful for a variety of reasons. The time we spent together chatting about the book received positive praise from countless group members. I also believe that the conversations gave us a comfort level amongst one another. We started to see: Each other’s perspectives on the world around us, the expertise and strengths that each of us possessed, and what we stood for as educators and individuals.
In July, a month after our book study ended, we all met for building-wide professional development, and it was the first time that many of us had officially met “face-to-face.” As we started creating our school vision during these days, my eyes watered when I saw how many people were using the word “innovation” to describe what they wanted to see for our students, and for us. It was evident how much the book already shaped everyone’s mindsets, and that was priceless. In addition, I asked George if he would be willing to Google Hangout with us, and he said “YES!” Needless to say, our chat could not have ended on a higher note.
Innovation is not just encouraged, it is what we aim to do and who we aim to be. “Innovation” is even a part of our school Pride Pledge that our principals read each day in the morning announcements. Even though we are only three weeks into school, I can already see first-hand how risk-taking is happening each day.
As the year proceeds, I cannot wait to see how our mindsets continually shift, and more importantly, how our kids grow!