Mindset is a word we hear being used much more now, especially compared to when I first started teaching. Most people are familiar with the concept of having a Growth Mindset vs. a Fixes Mindset, as in, believing that intelligence/abilities can be developed as opposed to believing that intelligence/abilities are static. Carol Dweck discusses this topic at length in her book, Mindset. George Couros’s recent book introduced me to the importance of also having an Innovator’s Mindset.
“The Innovator’s Mindset: The belief that abilities, intelligence, and talents are developed, leading to the creation of better ideas.” ~ George Couros
This week in the IMMOOC we were asked to reflect on the 8 characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset, and write about one we exemplify. I would like to think I possess all of the characteristics to some degree, but the one I’d like to talk about is being a risk taker – because it’s that one I am personally most impressed with! If you asked me fifteen years ago if I was a risk taker I would have quickly told you no. However I feel in more recent years taking risks is something I have become more comfortable doing. For example, several years ago I took a risk by leaving a well paying job in a highly respected school district to instead take a chance on a teaching position starting a new program with an unknown future. It was a great decision! Not only did I truly enjoy the teaching experience, but I know I was able to make a difference in many students’ lives. More recently my husband and I took a risk by moving out of state to pursue a new career option for him. We both left comfortable, safe, known jobs to take a chance on something new. Again it turned out great. We’re both doing things now we couldn’t have even imagined before.
This year I am taking a big risk at work, attempting to implement a personalized learning program within my 5th grade band and orchestra. I feel like over the years things haven’t changed too drastically in the world of instrumental music. The days of tyrant directors is (hopefully) over, and many teaching pedagogies have been improved upon, but in a typical class period the director stands at the front of the room and tells the students what to do. Period. Some people however are starting to create more learner-centered opportunities in instrumental music, and this is what I want to do with personalized learning. Students will be encouraged to set their own goals and work towards achieving them. Is this a risk because it’s brand new to our school? Yes. Because the students are only in 5th grade? Yes. Because I’ve never done anything like this before? Yes! But I am very excited to try it.
“Having the freedom to fail is important to innovation. But even more important to the process are the traits of resiliency and grit.” ~George Couros
I think my willingness to try something new comes from something else George Couros mentions in his book, and that has to do with failure. Couros explains the key is not letting a failure become the final outcome. In the event of a failure, we need to adjust and try again. That’s how I’ve felt about all the risks I’ve taken. None were end point decisions, or destinations, they were just points along the path. They were part of the journey. If one didn’t work out as planned we could just re-evaluate, make an adjustment, and try something new. Take a different fork the next time and see how that works out. (Are you noticing a correlation with my blog title? That wasn’t intentional for this post, but it really fits!) Obviously with this risk taking comes the necessity of resiliency and grit, and that’s why it would be impossible to just take one innovation characteristic and hope it’s enough. It won’t be. But for me, I enjoy reflecting on my risk taking, and seeing it as an important part of this journey.