It’s not just about HAVING an innovator’s mindset, you have to USE it!

I’m reading George Couros’ book, The Innovator’s Mindset.

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I love everything about this book! What I am finding interesting is that even though I have always had an innovator’s mindset and have embraced all that being an innovator entails in both my personal life and as a teacher;  I have not always empowered my student’s to embrace the innovator’s mindset.

As I am reading this book, I am pondering many of the norms in my classroom and in my school and asking myself lots of questions. For example:

  • Why do we have to do ______ a certain way?
  • Why do we come from a place of negativity when it comes to rules and expectations?
  • Why do we expect kids to fail/get in trouble/do things wrong?
  • When are we giving students choices?
  • When are students leading learning?
  • When are we modeling the innovator’s mindset?

All of my questions come back to Couros’ examination of student compliance vs student empowerment. It shames me to think about the fact that even in an artistic environment where students are asked to innovate and create everyday, I have always required compliance! OUCH.

But guess what? I am required to comply everyday as well. I have always hated the posted rules, class room procedures and expectations requirement for “good” classroom management. For years I bucked the system and didn’t post things.. but in order to be an “effective” teacher it was necessary to  post these guidelines.

So I did.

And guess what, students that didn’t comply didn’t care which rule they broke. Students that didn’t behave responsibly didn’t check my posted expectations and procedures to see how they deviated from the posted signs. The only thing that my signage did was to show adults that walked through my class that I had “good classroom management.”

So today I yanked my signs off the wall! These signs take up valuable wall space and I’d rather post positive messages and show off student work! What gave me the courage to take down the warning signs? Well, Couros made me do it!

I want my classroom to be a place of empowerment. I want students to be willing to risk it all and try new things in my space. I want to push students to expand their mindset and become an innovator. And I can’t do that from a place of compliance.

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No, I’m not going to have a free for all in my classroom! I am way to organized and driven for that nonsense! But I need to move past the statements that demand compliance.

Instead, here is one of my new posters…

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So yes, in a way I am still demanding compliance.. but the mindset is different. Instead of requiring that students all put the pencils away the same way or put their name on their papers in the same two inch space on their papers, I am demanding that students imagine. I am demanding that students dream, collaborate and inspire others with their work and their choices.

I can’t wait to see how the shift in mindset frees my students and my own personal creativity. I’m sure it will be wild ride, but I know that it will be worth it.

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My Working Space

Welcome to my Week 2, #edublogsclub post.

The prompt asks me to share about where I get my work done, how my space is organized and any tips or tricks that I want to share.

To begin,  while I spend more hours in V-21 than anywhere else, I don’t know that I really get all that much work done.. at least between the hours of 7:45am and 3:40pm. I typically work on my graduate classes or projects for myself after hours at home. But for this post, I am going to focus on my classroom.

The Physical Space

Here is a glimpse of my classroom on the first day of school. After almost twenty years teaching, I still love the clean and organized room at the beginning of each year. It’s kind of like the “new car smell.”

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As reflected in the pictures, I have a lot of space. Good thing… I have a lot of students and two class periods a day I teach Art 2, Art 3 and AP Art and have students in both the front and back classrooms at the same time.

And then there is the real life part of this post…

This is what my corner of the room looks like today…. img_9545-2

Yes, it is cluttered! Yes, it is visual chaos.

I do my absolute best to keep the space organized, but it really gets tough. One of my best teaching qualities is my commitment to differentiation for all 120+ students. The downside is that giving personalized instruction and projects to every student who comes into my room takes lots of materials, time and space!

The aesthetics

A few years ago while taking graduate arts education courses, I learned about the Reggio Emilia approach to classroom management, education and space planning. While I still have way more useless stuff on my bookshelves than I’d like, I really took the mindset of environment as the third teacher to heart. The research discussed in the Reggio Emilia Inspired classroom resonated with me and pushed me to activate ways for students to use the “hundred languages of children” which included sculpture, painting, drawing, touch, texture and so forth.

Further, in bringing this philosophy into my classroom, I was challenged to discard the primary colored plastic tubs of the typical American classroom. Why do we find it necessary to hide supplies from students? So I stopped. One of the biggest changes was the way I stored my colored pencils.  It was a small thing in the scope of a large classroom, but it has been great!

The back story on this was that our tennis coach asked me one year if I had any need for the plastic tubes that tennis balls come in. I said yes not really knowing what I would use them for. Well, the tubes are PERFECT for colored pencils! The clear containers were exactly what Reggio Emilia called for! And because they look cool and are organized, there wasn’t a need to hide them in a closet. Even better!

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Tips and Tricks

An efficient classroom is not only one that is organized, but one that makes sense. I have been in classrooms where there were exact procedures for folders, late work and so forth, but these procedures didn’t make sense or were not consistently enforced by the teacher.

So my biggest tip for life in education is to create procedures that you are not only willing, but capable of enforcing and carrying out EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  If you can’t commit to the procedure, then don’t bother.

For example, my students know that when it is getting close to the end of class, they had better have their space clean, supplies put away and be seated, or they won’t be dismissed when the bell rings. No one leaves the room if anyone is standing. Done. And even then, I have to say it almost on a daily basis. I don’t say it ugly, but I have to say.. “Where are you supposed to be?” or “If you plan on leaving when the bell rings, you need to be seated.” or any of the many variations on the same theme.  It’s a boundary. The teenagers in my room know that it is there, they expect it to be enforced, but they are going to check.. every single day. That’s the job of a teenager.

And you know what? Because I enforce such a seemingly insignificant procedure, I don’t have many problems in my classroom. Why? because my student’s know that the rules are the rules and I will follow through. I don’t have many rules. I don’t have arbitrary or crazy ones. I have simple, easy to enforce meaningful rules.

So that is my biggest tip and trick for classroom organization and management. Keep it simple..and keep it going. Every single day.

Man, I had so much more to say, but my soapbox is only so big, so I’ll step off it now and save my other organization tips for another post.

Final take away

At the end of the day, whether you work in a classroom, in an office, at your kitchen table, or from your bed, create for yourself a space that is inviting and a place that works for you. Sure, we all want to say that we want it to be more  organized.. but do we? Sometimes somewhat organized or loosy goosey is what resonates with our personalities and I don’t feel like apologizing for my stacks of project piles on the corner of my desk. Neither should you.

So thanks for stopping by and I hope enjoyed a glimpse into my world.