I find myself consistently in awe of the teachers and principals of schools that have rolled up their sleeves, taken the hard work of turning around their school head on and still have the energy and passion to share their successes – and lessons learned – with others. I often wonder how are they not sleeping instead?! I met one such principal this week when I sat in the Keysor Elementary School presentation during the 2014 Model Schools Conference. Principal Bryan Painter gave us a window into how this Missouri school tackled all sorts of challenges and while they find themselves still working, had plenty of productive experiences to share.
During conferences, ideas can be overwhelming as they are buzzing about everywhere and while my list of great insights is long from this conference, the piece of Principal Painter’s presentation that really got me to think was when he asked use about instilling critical and creative thinking for all in schools. He started with presenting his key action items on a slide:
- Create, allow for, and nurture opportunities to problem solve and think critically about relevant ideas
- Create, allow for, and nurture opportunities for playful thinking and creativity
- Teach into creative thinking skills
- Ensure conditions of trust – where risk-taking is the norm and creativity is valued
- Advocate for physical spaces that inspire creativity, innovation, and new ways of thinking
With the simple list in front of us, he had us discuss them amongst ourselves for a few minutes from our own lens. Once we finished, he posed the group two questions. How many of you looked at this list from the perspective of your students in the classroom? All hands went up. Now he asked how many of you looked at this list from the perspectives of the teachers in your school? I don’t recall a hand going up but I reserve the right to have missed one while I had an a-ha moment.
That simple question was an eye-opening trick that I hope you all will think about. We are so invested – and rightly so – in the success of students. A crucial part of that conversation is always how do teachers and leaders come together to make it work – again, rightly so. But this simple idea of what we want to do for our students to foster learning is also what we can and want to do for our teachers is spot on. Just as we are creating the environment for our students to think differently, we need to do so for our teachers so they can tackle the changes they need to address. The "for all" in this post's title isn't just for all student but rather for all students and educators.