I’m participating in George Couros’ Innovator’s Mindset Massive Open Online Course (#IMMOOC) over the next few weeks. Each week I’ll write a blog post as part of my participation and share it with you. Hope you enjoy them!
I have a confession to make. I’m addicted to Hamilton. And it’s not just a little addiction, it has taken over my life. I see so many connections to today in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s score of his blockbuster Broadway show. As I participate in and process current events, lyrics from the play continually pop into my inner monologue.
After reading the introduction of George Couros’ book The Innovator’s Mindset, the line that keeps repeating in my head is “Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now.” This is so true as an educator. I know it’s rough out there right now, but if we look at change as George Couros does, as an opportunity to do something amazing, then we can flip the outlook and really benefit our students and ourselves.
So how can we look at our challenges from a different perspective? I’ve found three tips from Couros’ book and several inspirations from Hamilton to help teachers find the silver lining in the sometimes black clouds we see looming over our heads and help us to look at change as an opportunity and not something to dread.
Focus on the CAN
What if Alexander Hamilton and George Washington had said, “Defeat the British? My soldiers can’t do that!” Couros states that as educators we spend way too much time focusing on what students CAN’T do instead of what students CAN do. So instead of jumping straight to, “My students can’t do that!”, start with what students CAN do. The American army was a ragtag bunch that faced adversity after adversity but still turned the world upside down. Students will often surprise us with what they can do, just as the British army was surprised by the American army’s success.
Shift from telling to LISTENING
While Hamilton wasn’t exactly a great listener at times, his mentor George Washington was. In the “Cabinet Battles”, he would listen to all of his cabinet members before he made a decision. Part of the problem with our students today is they’ve had the creativity and the innovation conditioned out of them. For years they’ve been taught good students sit quietly and do the work the teachers assigned. With few exceptions, they have no experience with incorporating their own ideas and their own voices into their education. The easiest way to start this is to ask students for feedback on what they’ve learned. What was most interesting to them? What might they want to explore further? What types of projects would they like to tackle? Teaching our students to be reflective learners, periodically asking them to give feedback on their learning, and giving student choice can take some prompting and some time, but can be a step to creating a more collaborative classroom culture.
Don’t Throw Away Your Shot
Change is scary. Change is hard. Not only did Hamilton completely invent a new economic system for our country, he had to convince others that it was the way to prosperity for our fledging nation. If he hadn’t taken advantage of making something awesome with the change the government faced our nation may look very different today. Instead of fearing the change, embrace it. Don’t throw away your shot to be a part of something awesome!
Imagine if we consider how lucky we are to be educators in this time of great change and make something completely amazing happen for our students what education could look like in 241 years. Imagine what our country would look like. And someday, we can say our founding fathers will be proud of us for blowing them all away.