Friday, July 15, 2011

Light Bulbs that Don't Work...

There's a common story that circulates about "success and failure" regarding Thomas Edison and the discovery of the light bulb. In his words:

..."I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have
succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have
eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will
work." ?Edison.[1]

As we are in the summer months between school years, educators across the global network are probably steeped in all sorts of summer recreation and activities. But, I assume some are actively engaged trying to figure out some new professional development or even are planning for the fall.
Over and over again I hear and read from many leadership gurus that there is a greater demand today for innovation than ever before. Some are even requiring their employees in the private sector to set aside one hour a week to generate new ideas. Todd Henry, creativity and innovation leadership consultant writes in his book, How To Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice: “This is not time to do work. This is time to think about work.”
Our public schools guarantee faculty members the “prep period” or that time to plan, make copies, and prepare for instruction. It’s hard to imagine how a teacher can actually take that small segment of time each week to sit back and reflect or innovate. But, that is the necessity of the work we do. We have to find time to innovate. In fact, if every teacher in a school district took the time to try one new idea from an innovation perspective, how much farther ahead would we be in assisting students to achieve?
The truth is, many teachers do create and innovate on a regular basis. And, as 21st Century School Leaders we need to encourage and support teachers in their desire to be innovative. It may not always be in the budget, but innovation is a premium we cannot afford to sacrifice if we hire the best and brightest teachers to work in our school districts.
And not every innovative thought works, as we can attest from Thomas Edison’s perspective, but what if one idea leads to another idea that somehow engages children to accomplish and achieve?

Peter Senge (1999) calls that continuous learning in organizations. Planning for time to continuously improve and experiment should be in every school administrators agenda, and hopefully setting the time aside will create more teachers like Thomas Edison!

[1] Retrieved from the Internet on July 15, 2011 at