“If a young person or a teacher comes to you with an idea, say yes.”
When I think about the conditions necessary for a culture of learning and innovation, I think about what happened at Quincy Elementary last week. Students walked into a circus wonderland when they arrived to school. A wonderland that a team of teachers created after school the night before. A wonderland that they carefully planned and created during a very busy time. Teachers have report cards to finish and conferences to plan, yet they went above and beyond to plan an amazing month where students will “Read Your Way to the Greatest Show”.
We have dance rehearsals scheduled, our PE teacher bought a unicycle to prepare for his act, and we even hunted down an elephant costume. Students left school on Friday so excited for the month ahead. And, the best of the month is yet to come.
Quincy staff has created a culture of learning and innovation through the relationships we have with each other and by saying YES! to each other. You want to be the bearded lady and sing to the students? Okay! Let’s make that work. You want to give away family passes to the real circus that is coming to town in a few days? Okay! Who can we contact? You want me to dress up like a ringmaster and lead the assembly? I am on it!
I have worked in environments where the opposite was true. Where the go-to answer was no. Where an idea would be pitched and others would immediately try to poke holes in it. Innovation does not live in that type of environment. But, at Quincy, where the go-to answer is YES!, innovation lives and breathes. And this month, it becomes a celebration of reading that is beyond students’ wildest dreams.
Check out Chapter 2 “The Innovation Ecosystem” of Katie Martin’s book, Learner-Centered Innovation, especially page 52 where Katie shares a TEDx talk by school superintendent Pam Moran called “Hacking School: Getting Ourselves to YES.”
“Are people expected to comply, or are they empowered to solve problems and innovate? What type of people is your ecosystem designed to create?”