Last year I had the chance to try my hand at a project based learning cycle for a geometry unit with my co-teacher. Not only was it fun and engaging, it brought out a different side of my students that I would never have unlocked if we stayed safe in our textbooks and pencils. That glimpse showed me that with a little extra searching, and a commitment to “one small change,” my classroom could look and feel more welcoming for all my learners, not just for those that fall in the middle. That experience motivated me to apply and join the Innovation in Teaching Fellowship.
On the first day of our Design Sprint in June 2017 I was most surprised by how empowering it felt to be surrounded by other ambitious and inspiring educators. Here we were, all teaching a few miles from each other, and we would have never met if it wasn’t for this fellowship. It was a good reminder that we are all doing our best, while working against a myriad of obstacles. I heard from fellows about the lack of technology at their campus, their lack of team unity, wavering campus leadership, but what I didn’t hear from them is any indication of giving up. Before my school year even started, I left knowing that the fellowship would equip me with friends to bounce ideas off of and would encourage me to keep trying new things.
Throughout the year I continued to look for moments of clarity that I was headed in the right direction. It was so helpful to have check-ins at our fellowship meetings. I longed for more time with other fellows to talk about how the year was going, what we were trying, and what we still needed help with. I kept thinking this was supposed to feel bigger, that I would feel different. However, I am realizing it is all a process and it is okay to innovate going two steps forward and one step back.
I found that innovating in the classroom is much more than introducing fun technology options, or even being at a 1:1 technology ratio; it’s about pairing a mindset for growth with the best tools of the trade. This can start anywhere. Committing to one small change is alarming at first but once you see where that one change takes you it keeps you going toward another small goal. This school year might not look perfect and my changes may have felt small to me but I have become more equipped with a toolkit of ideas, resources, and people to help make me a better educator and more able to reach all learners where they are. This experience has helped me realize that all education is messy, as well as wonderful. And, it is up to me to continue bringing order, opportunity, and challenges to my students and to myself in new ways every day.