Achieving edu-innovation by daring to “give it a go!”

Matthew Broderick

Matthew Broderick is a head of department for Science in a Middle Eastern IB school. He has written several textbooks for Science, has taught in different education systems and is a proud teacher who loves to try new things to inspire the next generation of scientists. Matthew is also hard of hearing and is proud to show the world what he can do as opposed to what people think a deaf man cannot do. His main areas of expertise in Science education are scientific literacy, ICT in the classroom and being an efficient teacher.

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I have recently started a couple of pieces of research into different aspects of teaching (and they say men cannot multitask!), but as I did this, one thing became very apparent to me. It is not the innovation itself, nor is it the strategy deployed, or even the relevant policy / guidelines / handbook / manual / research that aligns with it, that makes innovation successful. No, it is the attitude of the innovator and their peers.


As I push to encourage my colleagues to try new ideas and to invigorate their teaching, it is clear that there is often something holding them back. Sometimes, it is a policy or a manager that creates the barrier, sometimes it is their own mindset, but ultimately the ideas and enthusiasm can dwindle. However, there are some people who love a challenge and they love the idea of trying something new – no matter how contrary it feels to them or their teaching instinct. I have watched these people grow in the past year as they say “yes, sounds fun, let’s give it a go”.

 

Do the ideas and plans always work? No, they do not. But, we learn from the mistakes and pick up valuable characteristics along the way that create wonderful, passionate teachers who can seemingly transfer this into their students. I sat in an International Baccalaureate (IB) review meeting yesterday. During the meeting, I heard feedback from students that teachers always started the course with comments about how hard it would be, how the students would have no social life,"We learn from the mistakes and pick up valuable characteristics along the way." and the ethos seemed to be that they will all fail. What the students wanted to hear was that it could be done and that previous students had succeeded. Yes, they would fail, or struggle, or stress along the way, but they would come out the other side as the successful, well-rounded students that the IB aims to produce.

Sadly, throughout my career, I have sat in meetings where ideas and challenges are shot down as being “too much work for teachers”, or dismissed out of hand with a vague mumble about “it won’t work”.

The same logic applies for my IB students. So what if it does not work? So what if the gains are marginal? So what if a teacher has to try something new? It’s part of the journey and the experience that lays the foundation for true innovation. Only then can you open Twitter (other social media is, of course, available), see an idea and immediately see how it might work in your Grade 9 class. Only then do you see television shows as templates for plenaries. Only then can you shake off the shackles of conformity and prudence. Only then can we inspire those around us and make each day a little sunnier than the previous.

It is with this in mind that I am determined to seek this when observing teachers. I want to see teachers ‘giving it a go’ as most do, under "I want to see teachers ‘giving it a go’ as most do!"the freedom that comes from middle and senior leaders who want development and excitement. If a teacher does not quite meet all of the standards because they are trying something new, brilliant. What a teacher, a truly outstanding teacher, that person will become. I do not want innovation to be the use of some resource that is 10 years old, or strategies from a book that is 15 years old. Use these great ideas but supplement them with what is happening around you. This does not always need to be the latest app or the most expensive technology; it just needs to be an idea, a seed, or a starter of growth.

I am very lucky that I have worked with so many colleagues who do have a ‘can-do’ attitude, but I yearn for more. I envisage a time when most of my colleagues share this fearlessness and what an exciting place it will be to work. As a Leicester City FC fan (top of the league as of writing), it may be that I am riding on a wave of excitement and euphoria from, but in my team, I see an ethos of passion, talent, fearlessness, spirit and bravery. How good would it be if we could create something similar at school?

How do you take chances in your school? Let us know below!

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