Just Another Initiative? Making Time for Innovation

A quote that really stood out to me from George Couros’s book was the following:

“…it’s likely that most educators would find it easier to list the initiatives that have been added in the past couple of years than to list those that have been subtracted in the same time period. The constant addition of initiatives is leading many educators to feel burned out or leave the profession altogether.” (p. 164)

This is how many of my colleagues often feel whenever something “new” comes down the pipeline. We are told every time that this new, fabulous initiative (whatever it is) is quite simply going to transform our practice and our students’ learning.

And, then, it doesn’t.

Or, at least, it feels like it doesn’t. Whatever the new initiative is feels like just “one more thing.” My experience has been, overall, that “initiatives” don’t work. But innovation does work. My colleagues innovate on their own, within their own classrooms, and within our school, because our goal has always been what is best for the learning of our students. Innovation that succeeds is most often school- based and is geared for the learners that teachers are engaging with on a daily basis.

That being said, if something has worked somewhere, it could also be great somewhere else, especially if it’s customized for those particular students and that particular school. Which brings me back to what I most thought about after reading and hearing George Couros – it’s time for a re-emphasis on collegiality.

Because is what we heard from George really “new?” Is it an “initiative?” Or, perhaps, are we just being encouraged to use technology to continue what has always been best practice – which is connecting with our colleagues and learning from them? If so, the idea of connecting with more colleagues, through these meetings and through social media, excites me.

I have been teaching for almost twenty years now (which seems a little unbelievable to me!), and I like to think that I have altered my practice every year – trying new things (including with technology!), teaching to the students in front of me, meeting students where they’re at each year. I was lucky in my first few years to have some excellent long-careered mentors at my school, all of whom improved their practice in small or large ways each year, right up to retirement. That inspired me to try to do the same.

All of that being said, I really like what I heard from George (and also what I have read in his book). I like that the intent of what we are doing during these meetings is meant to connect innovative teachers (or those who are interested in innovation) with others who are like-minded – and not just within our division, but across the province, country and world.

I like that George is honest – if you are going to use social media, in particular Twitter, to develop a learning network, then there is some time required to “front load.” Being someone who has connected with others via the internet for other personal interests, I know that this is true, but that once you have put in those hours at the beginning, the rewards more than reap themselves. I am excited to see what others are doing and to take off from there. As mentioned above, I have always learned best from other teachers and have often called myself a “photocopier crook.” If I see something that a colleague has left behind on the photocopier that looks great, I ask them about it, and will often “steal” it to adapt for my own classroom. I love the idea that connecting with other educators across the world could expand that a million fold.

So, maybe, in the end, this whole process isn’t about innovation at all, at least not in the sense that we all hear that word (technology, technology, technology). Perhaps it’s really about something that isn’t that innovative at all, but that has become so recently because of teachers feeling overwhelmed and so losing the drive to pursue it. I am going to see this process as an attempt to return us to “collegiality.” Connecting with fellow teachers has always resulted in me feeling less overwhelmed and more excited about my practice. The best way to help each other to innovate is to support each other and to share our ideas. Because putting in the time to support and share with each other is what is best for the learning of our students.

And I’ll always have time for that.


Katherine Abra

École River Heights School

Cluster 1965


2 thoughts on “Just Another Initiative? Making Time for Innovation

  1. Hey Katherine 🙂

    In 20 years, so many things have come and gone, but as you discuss, the importance of relationships stays the same. The opportunities to learn from others, as you say from all over the world, have grown exponentially, and tapping into others ensures that we are able to see opportunities that we would not be exposed to if we only look at our own practice.

    Thanks for sharing your learning!

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