The Biggest Barrier Can Be Your Own Thinking

During a recent conversation with a colleague, we were sharing some of innovative practices happening within my school district. I’m excited to see the innovation that is occurring, and I know this is largely a result of challenging preconceived barriers, and thinking “outside the box”, while “inside the box”.

It’s easy to say something can’t be done. After all, we need to educate students within prescribed parameters established by the Ministry of Education and board policy. We must navigate within these parameters when we accept the conditions of employment. Far too often though, educators are quick to turn their backs on innovation. They see barriers without any thoughtful reflection, or questioning, regarding how these barriers can be overcome, or if they truly exist in the first place.

In my current position as a Learning Coordinator, and in my previous role as a classroom teacher, I recognize the parameters within which we must operate. We can’t just decide to teach the curriculum from another province. However, to a much larger degree, I believe these barriers are erected because of attitude, rather than any limitations placed on us by forces beyond our control.

Educators are immersed in a culture where it is much easier to recognize barriers and ascribe to the often false belief that something cannot be done. It’s easier to hold this belief than it is to think of ways to dismantle barriers, and seek solutions to navigate a path forward. Also, more educators than I think we give credit, acknowledge that we need to need to move forward, but when it comes to who is willing to put in the time necessary, enthusiasm wanes.

We need to foster a “can-do” attitude. We also need to remember that somebody somewhere has likely figured out a way to overcome what might be seen as barriers to innovation. If others can do it, and they also operate within prescribed parameters, we need to think more critically about finding solutions to overcome barriers, rather than halting progress due to a preconceived notion that it can’t be done.

If others can do it, and they also operate within prescribed parameters, we need to think more critically about finding solutions to overcome barriers, rather than halting progress due t

 

2 responses to “The Biggest Barrier Can Be Your Own Thinking

  1. I really like how George Couros challenges us to “innovate inside the box” https://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/6483 It’s not hard when you are given a grant of $15,000 to get all the latest technology and then tweet out the amazing things you are doing. Everyone applauds you for the innovative things you are doing. Well …. let’s look at the whole picture. It’s like a principal getting an award for raising the EQAO scores in his building. Sure… one educator graciously accepts the award for the drastic change in scores in their building, but does anyone mention that school had $100,000 of funding from OFIP? They had a principal coach, math coaches, instructional coaches and endless PD during the day to up their “math game”! Well they might mention it, but no, it was put down to one educator winning the award and turning that school around. If it really was that easy, then send that same administrator to the next school and have that be done year after year until all the scores are through the roof. Well, it doesn’t work like that. Yes! We know! The barriers that are often put in place are not often seen as barriers because they are so meaningful in themselves. #1 is meetings. Good in themselves, but when school leaders are out of their buildings day after day to attend meetings that is a barrier to helping that administrator create the culture in the school that can foster innovation and excitement for learning? #2 is Sit and Get PD. We probably don’t do this as much anymore, we are getting much better at hands-on PD since the whole MakeyMakey and manipulatives in Math concepts hit us, but when we bring in 100 Grade 6 teachers and lecture to them about how something should be done, we are not accounting for the fact that many of those teachers will go back to classrooms of 30 kids; 5 who are on IEP’s, 2 who are on the spectrum where they need an EA with them. Three behavior kids, and the list can go on describing most of our classes today. Suddenly the great idea from yesterday’s PD that sounded so easy and beneficial is virtually impossible to do because the poor teacher has little or no idea how to differentiate that great lesson for such a huge variety of needs. It’s often easy to see why many give up and the worksheets come out. What was the barrier? The PD or the teacher’s attitude towards it, or just the whole make-up of that class? Probably a bit of everything. #3 barrier – and this one has just occurred to me recently and that is the huge amount of tweets that barrage us on a daily basis that come with little or no explanation. Sometimes 4 images from various angles with stickers so as not to show the kid’s faces, showing some math activity or some coding activity. (I’m just as guilty here) but of course no explanation. I mean, how can I? I only have 280 characters and I want to tag all the important people in my life so they know I’m doing marvelous things. How many others look at those pics and get discouraged rather than challenged? In our excitement to share the wonderful things we are doing, are we creating barriers for others who just see an endless collage of images that they know they can never live up to, so why bother? I liked your line (quote) They see barriers without any thoughtful reflection, or questioning, regarding how these barriers can be overcome, or if they truly exist in the first place. (end quote) This is so true. A barrier for me might not even phase you and yet what I perceive to be exciting and innovative might be the very barrier for another that they just can’t seem to overcome. What’s the solution? Well, that I suppose can be discussed in the next episode. 🙂

  2. Well said. We work to build resilience in our students, but often let the smallest roadblock stop our own progress.. sometimes a rethink removes the barrier and sometimes we are our own barrier to innovation.

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