Educators must be innovators. We must be willing to constantly change and grow.
1. They are idea blenders.
Innovative educators are like Warhol and Picasso — they steal ideas and concepts from outside of their domain and find ways to infuse those ideas into their work. When faced with a problem, they don’t just look at what another teacher does or how another school solved the problem.
2. They ask their biggest critics for feedback.
Change agents in education are surrounded by a supportive group of people that can and will give them honest feedback. No one feels scared or defensive in the exchange of feedback, because the educator has been intentional in creating a trusting environment where constructive criticism is welcome. They know that ideas go from good to great when shared with others.
3. They fail fast and fail forward.
“Failing” is normally a dirty word in education, but not for disruptive educators. They know that failure is an imperative part of the creative process. Innovative educators are brave enough to try new ideas in and outside of the classroom.
4. They are passionately curious.
If you observe innovative educators in a conversation with a student or a colleague, you’ll see how they become hyper-focused and they ask lots of questions. They are constantly learning. This is also why they are idea blenders, because their curiosity leads them into a new web-design class or a subscription to an entrepreneurship online magazine. When faced with a problem, they don’t fumble, they investigate. They ask lots of questions… really thoughtful questions. This goes beyond a commitment to lifelong learning, it is a habit of always asking why, and then taking the initiative to answer that question.
5. They believe in their students.
Being a change agent in education is probably one of the most difficult, thankless and frustrating jobs out there. Our disruptive educators are square pegs that constantly feel like they are being jammed into a round hole. When you study the commitment they have for their work among all of the challenges they face, it is very similar to the commitment that an entrepreneur has for their start-up. They are willing to pour their blood, sweat and tears into each disruptive initiative because they know that it will ultimately improve the educational experience for their students. It is so much easier to be a complacent educator. Being innovative takes a kind of persistence and passion for their students that is inextinguishable.
It was intentional to use the word “habit” when framing this post. We may all have an example of times when we engaged in some of the behaviors listed above. I would challenge everyone, including myself, to think about the definition of a habit (stated in the very beginning of this post). How frequent are you engaging in these behaviors? Is it habitual in nature? Meaning, are you doing these without even thinking about it?