As I finished the last section of Katie Martin’s Learner Centered Innovation, there were many concepts that resonated with me. But one word, in particular, stood out: vulnerable. It makes me shudder to say it! Who wants to be vulnerable? Yikes! But the reality of the situation, this is yet another thing that must be in place in order for us to grow.
“Vulnerability is the prerequisite for all innovation, creativity, and change.” Aaron Hogan, Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth
If we want to be innovative, try something new, and make an impact, we must be willing to take the risk. AND we must be willing to share that risk. We cannot only share the successes and the shiny final products. What about the process? It’s messy! Own it! We teach our students that the process is more important than the product, it’s the same for us as teachers. This all goes back to the beauty of having a network, a tribe. These are the people who will support you throughout the mess. They will celebrate, commiserate, and offer suggestions every step of the way. But only once you’ve let them in.
In an effort to take my own advice, here’s a (small) project I’m working on right now. Instead of doing the typical composition project with my 4th-grade band and orchestra students (write 4-measures, start and end on do, etc.) I am incorporating the design thinking process. This is terrifying! We are somewhat following the LAUNCH Cycle, as described by John Spencer and AJ Juliani. The process starts with empathy. The students were asked to think about why composers write music, what various purposes music is written for, and then what purpose they might want to write music for. While many focused on things like music for entertainment or to make money, some had very creative ideas like music for ringtones, commercials, and even funerals! The students have been working on their compositions in class but were instructed to come back after spring break with the rough draft complete (the prototype, if you are familiar with LAUNCH) so we can begin the peer review process. When they Launch their compositions, students will have the opportunity to perform for the class and will be encouraged to find another audience, fitting with their purpose, to share the music with.
This has been a process not only for my 4th graders but also for me! I teach 12 small classes over the course of 4 days each week and was still making adjustments to the project on the 4th day. Iterations are part of the process. I’m taking a risk and trying something new. The next step is to invite others in and share the risk.
Katie Martin discusses the importance of teachers observing teachers, not for evaluative purposes, but for learning purposes. She encourages teachers to start by, “putting down the checklist and celebrating success.” It all comes back to being vulnerable, welcoming people into our classrooms so that we can learn and grow together. I am going to be vulnerable next week and invite someone into my room to experience this design thinking composition project. I look forward to hearing another perspective and receiving some feedback – not as an evaluation, but as a tool for growth. This is an important step in the journey, and I am excited to see the results!
“I truly believe that breaking down silos and sharing real challenges are the only ways that we will continue to improve.” Katie Martin, Learner Centered Innovation