Imagination and courage: The process of becoming innovative

Joey Menendez
Innovation. A word that is seen everywhere these days. It is hard to turn on a television, flip through a magazine, or search the internet without being inundated with products, articles, and books on the importance of being innovative. Our definition of innovation has come to be synonymous with new ideas or products that come with all the bells and whistles and may look like inventions because we have never seen them in the market before. In fact, innovation is the application of better solutions or methods to meet new requirements or needs of society. If I think about teaching and apply the idea of innovation as creating and using better solutions or methods to meet a need, I get excited about the opportunities we have as educators to enhance the learning experience for our students. 
I recently read an article in the Fort Worth Business Press titled “Understanding the real innovation behind the iPhone”. The author tells the story of how the iPhone transformed the mobile phone industry, but wasn’t technically innovative because many of the features the iPhone had in 2007 could be found in other cell phones. All the features on other mobile devices were meeting the needs of society and the market. Where Apple was innovative was in how they thought about the phone. They allowed their imagination to take them to a place where the phone became a fully functional portable computer and were courageous enough to risk building it.  Imagination and courage were what led to Apple’s innovation. Their innovation combined others solutions into a single product, the iPhone. In our world, being innovative in the classroom takes the same imagination and courage.

This year we are leveraging current research in education to help guide our practice in the classrooms. Our teachers are being asked to create Essential Questions which will guide their curriculum and will help our students grow and learn a transferable skillset. This exercise will require our teachers to be more imaginative and courageous in creating new student-centered learning environments, thus becoming innovative in the classroom.

Innovative teaching is occurring at All Saints’ every day.  A few examples include:
  • The entire Spanish department uses “I can” statements with each lesson taught. Using Essential Questions and Learning Outcomes to drive home their curriculum, our teachers build language skills in Spanish so students will be able to hold a conversation with a native speaker. Each Friday in Spanish classes, students take part in “Language Initiative.” Students participate in activities to make them stronger and, as the department says “more awesome at Spanish.” Language learning is a process and achieving proficiency takes work on the students’ part to listen to and read the language as much as possible. Students choose the activities to work on each Friday that will help them with their language acquisition. 
  • A number of teachers are implementing skill-based grading that is leading to better scholars and to emphasizing mastery. The goal is to build transferrable skills that they can use in other environments of their learning.   
  • Chemistry and Forensics classes are using interactive journals in class to develop a deeper understanding of the subjects while using Essential Questions to drive daily lessons.
These are but a few places where teachers areidentifying better practices to meet the ever-changing needs of their students’ learning.  Being innovative is a continual process that we are committed to here at All Saints’ in all that we do-the result of the motivation to be the very best independent school. 
All Saints’ Episcopal School is a leading college preparatory day school in Fort Worth, Texas. Grounded in the Episcopal school tradition, All Saints’ offers programming of national distinction in the academic, fine art, athletic and spiritual disciplines, which brings to life our philosophy of promoting each student’s individual genius within.
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