Setting the Tone for an Innovative School Year

Setting the Tone for an Innovative School YearMany teachers, including myself take the summertime to relax, recharge and reflect on what is working in their classrooms, and what needs to be modified and updated. A laundry list of modifications and good intentions continues to develop as the first days of school draw near. Too often, the ambitious list of improvements gives way to the reality of preparing a classroom, in-service days, seating charts, attendance and grading policies.

Teachers must make it clear to our students that in order to become truly innovative in the classroom, they will need to take risks and be prepared to fail. As teachers, we too often place such emphasis on getting the correct answer the first time, that we fail to remember that it was Thomas Edison who said, “I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Students need our support and guidance, while they experience failure along the road to success. Students are conditioned from an early age to play it safe, and go for the sure thing that will satisfy the problem the teacher has presented. What we do not do often enough, is leave problems open ended and encourage the ideation and creativity that can only exist when the risk of punitive failure is removed.

A method I use in my technology education classroom is allowing students to document their work thoroughly throughout the process. They document research, design idea, the build process, and the results of the testing of their product. Following this, they evaluate what they would change, and why. This authentic learning allows students not only the ability to take a risk, but justify their reasoning, and evaluate and synthesize decisions made. Overall, this is a very powerful learning experience.

Kenny ZushmaSo keep it innovative, but keep it structured. Allow for freedom of design, but insist on justification and reflection. Allow your students the opportunity to experiment, invent, and create in an environment that truly encourages innovation.

Kenny Zushma
Teacher of Technology Education
Heritage Middle School
Livingston, NJ 07039

Thomas Edison on Time Magazine

Thomas Edison said … “The man who doesn’t make up his mind to cultivate the habit of thinking misses the greatest pleasure in life.

Time ® is a registered trademark of Time Inc.

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