Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Door to Innovation


I took this picture on March 27, 2016, in the Amtrak 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. The ad above the door is for an April event in Baltimore, but it really makes me ponder whether innovation in education is as simple as walking through a door. 

Doors have been used as literary devices by many. For example, in Othello, Shakespeare employs a "door of truth," which can both admit and exclude. More recently, characters in the Disney movie Frozen sing Love Is An Open Door, again with the concept of doors initially being shut or exclusionary, until the right moment occurs to see a door as an entry point to a better future.

What conditions must exist for an educator to see the door as an entry point? Certainly in the picture above, there is sunshine behind the door, but not many other clues as to what lies on the other side. But maybe that's the point. When you decide to be an innovative educator, you have to be at least somewhat comfortable with the unknown.

You also have to be ready to lead, from wherever you are. I am reminded of three excerpts I read in The Dawn of System Leadership

  • [E]mbody an ancient understanding of leadership; the Indo-European root of "to lead," leith, literally means to step across a threshold -- and to let go of whatever might limit stepping forward.
  • Real change starts with recognizing that we are part of the systems we seek to change.
  • [O]perating within our comfort zones will never lead to engaging the range of actors needed for systemic change....
So, how do we come out of our comfort zone, step across the threshold, and through that door? And to see that when we cross the threshold, we are still part of the systems we want to change?

I believe it is about elevating agency, and creating the conditions in which educators feel efficacious:
With all that is happening in the education profession today, it is important to remember that teachers have power to change the system. This power for change can be called “Agency” which is defined as the capacity of teachers to shape critically their responses to educational processes and practices (Biesta and Teddler, 2006). 
With all the external push from various sectors, ultimately teachers are the ones that can cut through all of the cross-purposed mandates and transform their own process and practices to ensure the best educational experiences for their students.  

(Collins, 2013).

Light bulb! Maybe the door to innovation isn't just about us crossing the threshold, but opening our classroom doors -- and keeping them open. With the door open, we invite our colleagues and the world in over our threshold, and begin changing the systems in which we operate. Only in a collaborative group that ebbs and flows across the threshold can we transform processes and practices and become innovative for and with our students.

Join the conversation...
What doors do you want to open? What thresholds do you want to cross?









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