Where is Exploration, Empowerment, and Play in our schools?children-766922_1280

I’m reading Creating Innovators by Tony Wagner right now and, as always, his book inspires me to be curious about my leadership.  Very often we read books that give us recommendations about what we should be looking for in our classrooms and that is all very well and good.  However, is that kind of environment present within the school that allows the teachers to create that kind of environment within their classroom?  It is hard to create such a place if the walls of your school are quite traditional in their thinking and value of creative thinking.

Join me throughout this post as I explore my thinking about creating an innovative culture within the school building.  What may come from this is more questions than answers…but we just may be on the verge of creating something good.

So as a leader I am wondering how well I am doing in creating this kind of culture for the staff.

The first area is Exploration.  Is there evidence within the building that teachers have the freedom to explore their content in a way that makes sense to them?  We all know, or can picture, a typical classroom where students are sitting neatly in rows and listening to the teacher give them information. Very traditional.  Teamwork, interdisciplinary problem solving…where are those in our school?  Do our teachers work more in isolation or more in teams?  Are they working more with others who share their thinking or are they stuck with their grade level colleagues?

The second is Empowerment.  Tony Wagner refers to this as “…a kind of empowerment that gives individuals the confidence they need to take risks.”  Are individuals within the school encouraged and even rewarded for taking risks.  Where and how would I collect evidence that this is happening?

The third area is Play.  As an elementary school this may be an area that we are doing well in.  For a while the trend was to remove play from school.  There just wasn’t time in the day, and besides, they could play when they got home.  However, current research is touting all the ways that play fosters learning and how vital it is to the development of our children.  It is a shift in our current mindset to bring play back into our day, but well worth it in the end.

He refers to the three of these together as Whimsy.  Is there a feeling of whimsy throughout the building?  Is that a good thing?  It could fly in the face of traditional “school” where we are results driven and quiet and order are revered.  But is true innovative learning occurring?  And the all important question…”How do we know?!”

I would love to hear your thoughts on these wonderings.  Please share!


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