George Couros identified 8 characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset. While I do embody each of these characteristics at different times, I believe that I am a Risk Taker. I have often taken risks in my classroom, and I believe that many of these risks have paid off. Others may have not worked out, but hey! that’s part of the process, too. One just needs to be resilient! “Risk is necessary to ensure that we are meeting the needs of each unique student” (Couros 51). Without risk, many new and innovative ideas would have never and will never come to fruition. I tend to take risks and try new things without asking for permission; I can always ask for forgiveness later.
I would like to share two big risks that I have taken that I believe have been successful. The first one is the course that I teach, Systems of Analysis. About two and a half years ago, my principal approached me with an idea. He asked me if I would be interested in moving from 9th grade to 11th grade and teaching a new course that would integrate Civics and Economics with English III and English IV. Not only was I interested, I was excited! I didn’t know anyone else who taught a course that integrated these two subjects, so I started from nothing and built a brand new course. And, I think that it has been a huge success. Integrating the two subjects together has greatly enhanced both subjects for myself and, more importantly, for my students. I love the challenge of figuring out the best way to combine elements of English with the concepts in Civics. And I think that the experience is much better for my students because they are able to see how these subjects relate to one another. This risk has been well worth all of the rewards!
Additionally, I didn’t want to approach teaching this course in the “normal” way. I had been doing a lot of research on gamification, and I decided that I wanted to gamify this new course. I have been using 3DGameLab as my learning management system, and it has been a success! The students understand the idea of earning XP (experience points) instead of grades. (Granted, I do have to convert the XP to grades for their report cards.) Instead of starting the quarter with a 100% and watching that grade rollercoaster up and down throughout the quarter, they benefit from starting at a 0% and working to earn the grade they want. I have seen motivation and engagement increase because the students know exactly what they need to do in my classroom. They benefit from feedback about their work and the chance to master concepts and redo assignments without penalty of losing points. They get to spend more time engaged with the content instead of stressing out about how to bring their grade up. They earn extra lives throughout the year, and these can be used to turn in work without penalty, which also reduces stress. This is the type of atmosphere I set out to create.
Creating this new course and gamifying it has not been smooth sailing. I definitely battled some waves (and maybe a hurricane) to get the course to where it is now. This current quarter I tried a few new strategies in how I flip my classroom and in how the students interact with the content. These new ideas did not work out so well. To be honest, I was in a rut and feeling uninspired before I tried them, and I feel like I forced some new ideas without really thinking them through. But, I have reflected on what has not gone well, and I have made some changes to help the students finish the school year on a positive note. Thanks to a friendly pirate and an innovate mindset, I am feeling rejuvenated and ready to find the teacher I was when I took these risks in the first place! “Innovation starts not by providing answers but by asking questions” (Couros 38). Now that I have been asking questions about my course and my lessons, I am able to see things differently. I am inspired!
Couros, George. The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity. Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc., 2015.