Wednesday, December 12, 2018

I Think We May Have It All Wrong

This week I had the pleasure of listening to Tony Wagner keynote at a state conference.  He shared lots of great ideas with the crowd but one particular point really stayed with me.  As part of his book Creating Innovators, he has researched schools across the globe looking for common threads throughout educational systems and found three things make a difference in schools:

Play, Passion, and Purpose

When it comes to innovation, do we pay enough attention to these three things?  Think about your own school or district.  I bet you can say with confidence that you know your purpose.  It is likely communicated and shared through a vision that rings throughout your buildings. That purpose is what we are all about, what we wake up everyday to do.  We want to provide the best educational opportunities for our students.  Our purpose is the kids and that is the heart of our daily work.

My guess is, that most schools probably do a decent job when it comes to passion.  We create learning strands that meet the needs of our students, providing them with innovative educational programs and opportunities to explore their passions in the classrooms through the curriculum that we implement and the way that our teachers skillfully craft engaging lessons.  We may focus on developing passions through our career and technical schools, our after school enrichment programs, or by implementing Genius Hour projects within our classrooms, but I think we probably fall a little short on the last P.

Is play evident in your school?  I don't mean just in the kindergarten classrooms, but in every classroom.  Not physical play in recess or gym class, but the kind of play that sparks curiosity and invokes passion in our learners.  Are there opportunities for students to explore, tinker, and wonder in every classroom, every day?  If not, how will we go about changing that?

My school district thought we were on the right track.  We have a motto that we call P3.  It stands for purpose, passion, and pride.  We use #P3 in a lot of our communication and social media content.  P3 has been a way for all 5 buildings in our district to share our message with our community.  It ties us together around a common mission.

But I think we may actually have it all wrong!

Instead of focusing first on our purpose as a district and using that as a starting point--what if we started with play?  From play come these amazing opportunities for learning that are personalized and truly student-centered. Without play, our students (and teachers, too) lose that sense of curiosity and the ability to let their imaginations run wild.  That is the true joy in learning and we let it fall by the wayside. Through play our students can bring new ideas to life and engage in creative problem-solving.

We need to disrupt the status quo and focus on the strategies that will create innovators in every classroom.  We need to embrace the importance of play, passion, and purpose in ways that meet the needs of our learners, but also pushes beyond what might possible.  Through a focus on play, passion, and purpose, we are developing the young people who will truly change the world!