What examples of strengths-based leadership from the Innovator’s Mindset resonate with you? How might you focus on strengths to unleash talent and foster innovation in your own context?
If we are going to empower our students, we must help them find what they love and create learning experiences that encourage them to develop their strengths. (Couros, 2015) I had a student that failed my social studies class placed with me again. This student failed due to many missing/incomplete assignments and projects. Thinking she would do much better the 2nd time around was a naive assumption on my part. Behaviorally, much better, but academically she was not off to a good start. While reading the Innovator’s Mindset chapter 8 Strengths-Based Leadership in particular, I realized that it was I that failed her. I failed to focus on her strengths, what she can do and focused on what she wasn’t doing.
Now I see her with new eyes, and see a caring, loving, helpful young lady that enjoys talking and sharing her experiences and loves her family.”How can I tap into that? She just so happens to be placed in one of my most talkative classes, full of blurters and possibly some future stand up comedians. So, at the start of 2nd quarter, I decided to let the students choose their own seats, but on the condition that their final project will be a group grade, hoping that she and the entire class can keep their conversations on the task at hand. At the same time, I want to allow this student the opportunity to choose her group and possibly strengthen relationships with her peers and with building trust between her and I. From there, hoping to create a family type environment where all students (this one in particular) has ownership and is comfortable and empowered.
Somewhat similar to George Couros’ experience as a principal with a new staff. Allowing the staff to join a team focus that they were passionate in, he believed that the more interested they were in the topic, the better the learning would be for the entire staff. (Couros, 2015) By focusing on their strengths and the power of ownership first, then build upon that I truly believe success and growth is soon to follow.
What elements of the 8 Things to Look For in Today’s Classrooms” exist in your professional learning? What elements are lacking?
As I go through this Innovator’s Mindset journey, I constantly have this in the back of my mind. Am I creating an environment that cultivates Voice, Choice, Time for Reflection, Opportunities for Innovation, Critical Thinkers, Problem Solvers, Self Assessment and Connected Learning? My honest answer…. to the best of my abilities, yes! Is that good enough? No, but it is a start. Does this exist in my professional learning? Yes, but not on a consistent basis and not equally amongst or between departments or colleagues. I think what is lacking is a cohesive vision due to not having a Voice. Until that has been decided upon and steps to implement, these 8 criteria will only happen in pockets. Until we have a clear vision, there will be no staff buy in because there is nothing to grasp on to or strive for. Not to diminish the awesome things individual teachers are doing in their classrooms, but that is as far as it’s reach has gone.
Choose one of the “foundations for innovation” below…Talk about how you are furthering that in your own settings. Give concrete examples that others can use.
- Strengths-Based leadership
- How I’ve addressed SBL is by incorporating a Student Survey at the beginning of the year. Although, based on some the responses I think students at the 7th grade level are not fully aware of how they learn yet, but by asking and having them think about it is a start. This is something I continue every quarter. Using the survey and my observations I can better create a seating chart to best suit their needs and where I think they can flourish. As we get into the mid-later half of the year, we work on more group projects which I can then allow students to choose their groups. Usually, by this time we all have a good understanding of our strengths and weaknesses and can work more efficiently.
- Less is more
- This criteria I struggle with at times, only because of my fear that students will be bored or not have anything to do. What I’ve realized is that I can’t let my fears overcome what is best for the learner. How I remember “less is more” is by focusing on what I want the learner to learn? What is our objective? Is this relevant or is this busy work? With this is mind, I’ve scaled back on how I write my assignments and have incorporated more student centered discussion and reflection. I’ve done this by using soliciting student questions and comments regarding covered content or even “what questions do you have about what we are learning?” and allow student groups to discuss and come up with their own answers. I provide a prompt to the class and using Padlet.com groups post their questions. I have the questions displayed and allow groups to clarify, answer and share findings with class. By doing this activity instead of a worksheet or quiz I think I’ve actually done a lot more by doing less! While students are collaborating, answering their own questions I’m observing and assessing. No stacks of paper to grade just meaningful focused conversation. Thanks to my awesome professor, Katie Martin for sharing this great activity.
As mentioned in #IMMOOC week 4 with Katie Martin and Kara Welty, “we need stop spoon feeding information, be flexible and adjust on the fly, stop over planning because it takes away opportunities for learners and to place the cognitive load on the learner.” By focusing on 5 ways to Lay the Foundation for Innovation and keeping these suggestions in the forefront , it is a great and fun way to move our students forward.