Is it better to know a lot about a few things or a little bit about a lot of things? Or put another way; is it better to go a mile wide or an inch deep? I wonder how many leaders, especially over the last 11 months, have struggled with this? Ahh, so many questions when I start blogging again. ?
I think to a degree, leaders have been expected to know (and rightly needed to know) about a lot of things as we’ve navigated this school year. As a leader, there have been times where I have thought, “Should I already know how to do this?” or “I should have known how to do that!”, but then I remember that everyone is doing a lot of learning this year and having a lot of “new” to navigate. It’s a good reminder to give each other, and ourselves, a lot of grace.
Personally, I think I’d rather dig in deep on a few things and feel confident on those versus knowing about a lot of things, but not knowing any one of them particularly well. This is how we should be framing it when we work with teachers. I’d rather help them feel really good about one or two things instead of opening the firehose to full power immediately to only have them feel overwhelmed. Build a good foundation of confidence with a little bit, then add to it gradually.
As long as we remain learners first and teachers second, we’ll all get better for ourselves, our colleagues, and our kids.
This first week(s) of remote teaching and learning has been quite an adventure for schools everywhere. I have said more than once that this feels a bit like we’re building the plane as we fly it. To say that things are fluid is an understatement. Teachers were already known for their flexibility before, but now more than ever teachers win “World Champion of Flexibility” with all of the adjustments and quick learning they’ve had to take on. Same for parents – they’ve had to adjust work schedules and figure out a new normal for students doing all learning from home. It’s been a lot for all parties involved, especially our students.
One of the things I have loved seeing though is the grace and kindness being given. It truly helps us all be successful in all of “the new” we’ve taken in over the last couple of weeks. It really helps allow teachers’ passion to shine. And shine it has! In all of the communications that our district leaders have sent recently, I am so appreciative of how perfection has not been expected, but passion has. When grace and kindness prevail, it paves the way for our passion to truly shine, which is what we need more than ever now in education, in the world, and in our every day lives.
Are you making sure the passion gets the spotlight?
I recently was in the grocery store to pick up some potato chips (or ‘crisps’ as some other countries refer to them as). I entered the aisle, and this time was truly taken aback by the magnitude of choices I had as a shopper. I mean, lots of choices in the potato chip aisle is nothing new, however, this time I really caught myself stopping for an extra few moments to notice how many varieties, styles, flavors, etc. that there are in this one spot of the grocery store. We’ve certainly become accustomed to lots of choices, haven’t we? You might also be thinking, “Kyle, we need to find you a better way to spend your time on a Saturday!”. Side note: I love trying new/interesting flavors of potato chips. 🙂
One of the flavors I brought home was Sour Cream & Onion. This is a preferred flavor in my house. As I looked at the bag I thought, “I wonder how the development of this particular flavor came to be? What did that conversation and planning look like?”. I’ve always found really random history like this very interesting.
While I didn’t dive into the history of this particular flavor of crispy potato goodness, I am going to make a fairly safe assumption that it stemmed from people who were tired of plain potato chips. I would imagine this is how the plethora of chip flavors all began – “You know what would taste really good? If we made potato chips taste like _____!”.
I then began thinking about innovation in education. The word innovation is used so heavily now. We’re all supposed to be innovative all the time in our teaching and the opportunities we offer students. It’s quickly become a buzzword like so many that have come before it, and we are certainly offered a lot of choices on ways to be innovative in the edtech world. Think of what the edtech space would look like as an aisle in the grocery store!
I’m not saying that being innovative is bad. What I’m getting at is we shouldn’t over complicate what innovation looks like. I think the idea of being/becoming more innovative is intimidating to some people. It needs to begin with something that we’ve become tired of; a particular lesson or unit, a process, a workflow, or the culture of a school or district. Or maybe we’ve discovered something just isn’t working as well as it used to – especially with learning opportunities we give our students and the ways we equip them to express their learning. It’s making the conscious decision (whether individually or collaboratively) that we are ready for something new – something more for ourselves and our students.
Don’t let all the options overwhelm you. Spend some quality time in the “edtech aisle”. Ask lots of questions. Seek help from your network. Select one and give it a go. Make an informed decision on what’s best for your students. I would then encourage you to share what you tried. Blog about it, share it with your school, find your voice to share the great things you’re doing in your classroom. We need more of that.