It’s getting close to that time of year again (for many of us around the world anyway) – a fresh start, another chance, a do-over… aka a new school year.
For some of us it’s already here. For others it’s just around the corner. For some it’s still a few weeks away. But regardless of which, it’s coming.
And for some reason the start of this new school year feels different, it feels special. It feels extra hopeful and extra full of possibility!
It feels like the perfect time for all of us educators to be risk-takers and do something truly significant to shift the paradigm of what education is to what education could be.
But what’s so special about this year?
Here are four reasons I can think of (although I’m sure there are more!)
1. The momentum from last year. Momentum from last year really started rolling within the IB community in March with the annual World and Heads conference. There was a collective buzz, a sense of joint purpose and a burst of energy towards truly making a change in education.
2. The start of a new school year. Even though there was a palpable momentum that percolated last spring, taking a risk with only 3 months of school left can seem daunting, and for some pointless. So this new year presents the perfect time to harness that momentum from the conference last spring, but at a time where everything is new, possible, and malleable.
3. A growing community of support. Something that was able to take hold at the end of the last school year was an amazing community of like-minded educators, dissatisfied with the current state of education and willing to take a risk and swim upstream in order to reimagine education. There are currently 170 authors from 35 countries on this blog who share ideas, struggles and reflections with one another, in a challenging yet supportive online community. Swimming upstream when you feel like you are the only one doing it can feel lonely, scary and frustrating. Swimming upstream and knowing you have the encouragement and support of hundreds of educators from all over the world feels completely different.
4. The release and launch of the Enhanced PYP. A common deterrent for taking risks can be the fear of getting in trouble from a supervisor or administrator who may have a different philosophy or a less developed understanding of progressive pedagogy. The launch of the Enhanced PYP this fall will definitely help with this. Swimming upstream is a whole lot easier with programmatic backing! Being able to explain, justify and defend risks will feel completely different now that the PYP has slapped the word AGENCY in big, bold letters in the center circle.
What risks shall you take?
Some people know exactly what they want to do, but have just been waiting for the perfect time. Well now is your time – go for it!
Others may want to make a change but are unsure of what to do.
Here are some ideas:
Start with your own why. If you start by focusing on the what or how of the risk, you’re missing the most important part.
“I’m going to try X this year!”
“… I don’t really know. I heard about someone else doing it so I wanted to try”
Transplanted risks and innovations are usually the ones that flop and fail. Innovations and risks need to be contextual to the school, the country, the students, the teacher. Here are some tips about how to grow your own innovation.
Identify opportunities for growth in your own teaching practice. If you’re having trouble growing your own innovation, a good starting point is self-reflection. Find out what areas of your teaching practice already support student agency, as well as where there may be space for more student agency. Here is a link to a questionnaire I created to help educators find their own areas of growth.
Seek guidance from experts. If you are set in your why and know the areas in which you need to grow, but aren’t sure exactly what first steps to take, try consulting this blog post from Kath Murdoch where she offers 10 tangible suggestions that up the voice, choice and ownership within the first weeks of school.
And if you’re still not sure now is the time to take some risks, read these encouraging words from the wise Sir Ken Robinson. We are the system, so only we have the power to change it.
To wrap things up, I’ll leave you with a quote that my Head of School shared with our staff a few days ago:
What risks are you willing take this year to try and create a more happy, healthy, humane, relevant and significant year of learning for your students?