By. Drew Hirshon
Making things and then making things better is something we strive to do every day. It is the core of humanity. It is what makes us unique. Innovation is making things new and better and we are in a year where we are forced to innovate more than we ever have in education. We teach design thinking and allow our students to fail so they can learn from their failures, we call this iterating. This is something that we as educators and parents must allow for ourselves so we can improve our practices. The key in this process is that we all begin with empathy.
Empathy gives us insight about other people. It forces us to take the time to ask questions, care about them, and gain their perspective. As we “make” a new school year we all have to start with empathy. The decisions we make as parents and educators should always be done with the mindset of how will this affect our end user. This could be a letter, a phone call, a plan, and of course a design of some kind. For us to be successful innovators we need to work toward having these four essential qualities: Curiosity, Collaboration, Integrative Thinking, and Taking Action/ Experimenting.
Curiosity and empathy go hand and hand. Before we can even start to innovate and improve what we do, we must ask good questions. Asking good questions alone isn’t good enough, we must also have the desire to understand deeply. Before we embark on this unique school year, we have to ask the right questions so we can make informed decisions to best support one another. Parents and teachers have to work together to make sure every child has what they need to be successful and it begins with curiosity.
Collaboration is effectively working together to solve a problem. This means taking the time to listen to learn from one another. In a year where we cannot sit down and communicate it will be imperative that when we do communicate that we take the time to listen and learn versus listening to respond. If we can collaborate effectively we can innovate effectively. As strategies, plans, guidelines, and policies roll out for this upcoming school year, feedback that is helpful, specific, and kind will ensure that our teachers and students can have success this year.
As we share ideas inside and outside of our school, integrative thinking will be necessary for us to continue to problem solve and “make” the school safe while providing an engaging learning experience for our students. What this means is that as a team (parents and staff), we need to see all aspects of the problems we face before making a final decision. Again, this connects back to empathy and understanding various perspectives and looking through multiple lenses before we can make informed decisions.
We are all MAKERS and because we are MAKERS we have to know that we will encounter challenges. These challenges might be personal, they might involve others, and they may be greater than what we encounter in our schools. If we are mindful of what it means to be an effective innovator by continuing to be curious, collaborate effectively, and utilize integrative thinking before we make decisions we will be able to take action that is thoughtful, informed and most importantly empathetic of all end users which impact our students and teachers the most.