Five Keys to Sparking Innovation in Your School


One of the most difficult things to change in any organization is culture.  When you’re trying to change the culture in an industry that has done things the same way for over 100 years, that task becomes even more daunting.  The question then becomes how can we move our school in a way that promotes new ideas and risk-taking despite entrenched philosophies and traditions that fight the concept of change.  Below are five keys to helping your school turn the page on tired old practices in exchange for something better.

Just say “YES!”

It’s a simple but powerful word.  Empower your teachers to try new things, without fear of failure by giving them the proverbial green light when they ask for it.  Your confidence in their ability to be successful will not only embolden your staff but give them ownership of their instructional practices and the resulting outcomes.

Shine a spotlight on new ideas

Whenever members of your staff take a risk and try a new approach, make a point to not only support them but also share it with the rest of your team.  Make it clear that immediate success is not necessarily going to happen, but the lessons learned from the attempt at something new should be shared out with the rest of the team so we can all “fail forward” together.

Take the focus off the test

In our educational world of high-stakes testing and accountability it is difficult to take our eyes off the final product and focus more on the process.  In order to improve our processes — and ultimately our final product of student learning — we have to be willing to go through what Michael Fullan calls the “implementation dip.”  All successful school go through this process of taking a step backwards in order to take two steps forward.  Experimenting with a new approach is messy and takes time before you can turn the results into something capable of out performing the previous method.  Giving your team a chance to fail in order to grow and improve means understanding that those all important test scores may take a dip.

Make connections

The more we interact with others, the more we learn.  Our teams need to interact with each other, with other teams in our school, and with other schools in our community and beyond.  Whether we are interacting at conferences, at collaborative meetings, or through Twitter chats, these connections with other educators are what spur the birth of new ideas.  Those teachers and school leaders that have ongoing dialogue with others in their field are more able to make connections between those conversations which develop into new ideas.  Those who live in a bubble have fewer experiences, whether first-hand or shared, and can expect more of the same results.

Change begins with me

The person whose actions I can control easiest is my own.  Be a model of the type of innovation and risk-taking you would like to see in your school.  A movement starts with the actions of a single person…  be that person.  See the video below for an entertaining example of how one person can lead the behavior of those around him.  If you aren’t willing to let your team see you fail how can you expect them to think it’s OK for them? Take a risk and try something new.  If you’re lucky, you just might fail and help your team to grow in the process.

What are is your school doing to foster this climate of innovation?  Leave us a comment by clicking here.

About Us

Dr. Michael Methvin is the principal at Pleasant Hope Elementary School in southwest Missouri. He has served as a building principal since 2005 at both the elementary and secondary levels after beginning his career in education as a business teacher. Prior to moving to the Midwest and becoming an educator, he spent time working in marketing, advertising, and the internet industry in Boston and New York.  Currently, Michael enjoys encouraging his team to try new and creative things in their classrooms, hosting the Lead Learner Podcast, and spending time with his wife, Kristal, and their three children, Jacob, Makayla, and Kennedy.

Dr. Shane Dublin is the Executive Director of Secondary Learning for the Springfield Public Schools in southwest Missouri.  Prior to that he served for 10 years as the principal at Bolivar Middle School. As an educator, he has a passion for being involved in conversations centering around learning, innovation, taking risks and bringing about the best in those around him. He believes the “whatever it takes” philosophy applies to all areas within the academic community and strives to challenge all students, provide interventions for struggling learners and nurture kids toward becoming responsible and productive citizens.

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