Schools benefit when administrators help teachers bring ideas to life
- Supporting and scaling educators' ideas beyond a single classroom in a school or district can be beneficial, but challenging, Jin-Soo Huh, the executive director of personalized learning for Distinctive Schools and former personalized learning manager at Alpha Public Schools and director of technology at KIPP Chicago Schools, writes for EdSurge.
- Administrators must figure out how to use "small-scale brainstorms" without creating yet another rote task for teachers to participate in, focusing on simply creating a space where ideas can be shared and nurtured.
- As examples, Huh cites efforts by Georgia's Gwinnett County Public Schools to partner with the nonprofit Teachers Guild to expand opportunities for teachers to brainstorm and develop ideas, and charter network KIPP LA Public Schools' creation of the KIPPovate mini-grant challenge to similarly encourage innovative ideas..
As the flaws of top-down mandates continue to be highlighted alongside the benefits of gathering ideas and feedback from the bottom up, administrators are continuing to find that teachers are K-12's greatest untapped innovation engines. It stands to reason that the changes with the biggest impact often come from those actually in the classroom, as they're well-attuned to what will or won't work with students. But unfortunately, the high stakes attached to mandated standardized assessment, especially when tied to teacher and school evaluations, have also served to discourage educators from trying anything too outside-of-the-box in their classrooms for fear of the consequences that could come with failure, like school closure or unemployment.
Administrators can help raise awareness of these concerns among policymakers in their efforts to alleviate those fears in an environment where those same policymakers are calling for more innovation. And they can also build solidarity with teachers by demonstrating their own willingness to try something new that they're not entirely sure about. Creating these "O captain, my captain" moments with staff can boost morale and trust, and increase confidence when attempting a new teaching method or model.
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