We are excited, exhausted, and encouraged to be writing our first post for our website. Creating this website has been a task on our to-do list for the past year and a half, and the timing could not be more perfect. We have been inspired by Don Wettrick’s Pure Genius: Building a Culture of Innovation and Taking 20% Time to the Next Level in our work and are in the early phase of a project centered around a culture of innovation. Over the past three weeks, we have partnered with our students to explore the idea of a fearless classroom and what motivates, inspires, and pushes people to be their best.As we listened to Elizabeth Gilbert and Brené Brown discuss how essential creativity is for healthy, wholehearted living, we were struck by Brown’s perspective on failure (Full podcast below).“I don’t leap for the landing, I leap for the experience through the air…you cannot predict the landing.”We have a mantra in our learning space, “It is about the experience, not the test,” and Brené Brown’s comment hit home.We are products of 5,000 second chances and much of what we have accomplished in our partnership has been through trial and error, growing from setbacks, and the inspiration of others. It isn’t always easy, but we are pushing ourselves to take risks and embrace failure, learn from it, and grow. This is a mindset we are trying to develop within our students as well.With some many definitions and interpretations of the word innovation, one we love is Don Wettrick’s. “Simply put, innovation uses a fresh approach to solving real problems with the resources you have and finding clever ways around the resources you don’t have.” And just like Don, we are teachers who choose “to work creatively within the constraints of the current system.” This cannot and will not be accomplished if we are focusing on where we will land. For us, the focus is on the experience through the air, hand in hand with our students knowing that together we can take learning to the next level.In order to embrace failure, we needed to be able to identify what it is that we are afraid of. So here are our fears, laid open to the world and ourselves:1. Our contents will get lost in the mix.2. Our students will not learn what they need to for the local and district assessments.3. The students will lose the larger idea of innovation and passion and get lost in the details of the process.4. Students won’t make connections between their passions and the content enough to be engaged and excited about the work.Each day has been a roller coaster of emotions. In the morning, we are refreshed and inspired, ready to tackle this new kind of project, and this new kind of thinking. By ten a.m. we are nervous and scared, we made the wrong decision. Our days continue with this back and forth, but at the end of it all we understand what Don Wetterick is talking about when he wrote, “Freedom is hard. Being told what to do, although not exciting, is easy.”At the end of the day, we remind ourselves that the freedom to be able to take this leap is worth it–for us, and more importantly our students.Kari MillerKari co-teaches an integrated AP U.S. History/AP Language & Composition course at Dallas ISD’s premier school of choice, A. Maceo Smith New Tech High School. A graduate of the State University of New York at Oswego with a B.A. in English, Kari has a Master of Science in Teaching & Curriculum from the University of Rochester and is currently working on a second Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy. Working in an integrated project-based learning school has allowed her to not only grow in her pedagogy, but learn to take risks as well.Jason BroussardJason co-teaches an integrated AP U.S. History/AP Language & Composition course at Dallas ISD’s premier school of choice, A. Maceo Smith New Tech High School. A graduate of Texas Tech University with a B.A. in History, Jason has a Master of Science in Instructional Design and is currently working on a second Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy. Working in an integrated project-based learning school has ignited a passion to provide equity and access to urban students in innovative ways.
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