Over the summer, one of the books I read was Drive by Daniel Pink. It was a good read for me. Even though it is centered around the business world, there are many aspects of it that would greatly benefit the educational world as well. The one that stands out in my head most of all is the need for autonomy: giving people the freedom/independence to do something they find value in. He talks of companies allowing time for their workers to take on a project that means something to them and then, most importantly, allowing extra time for them all to share what they have come up with. Giving them this time has proven time and again to be beneficial not just for the employees but also for the company. Some of their new products, or fixes/improvements for some of their existing products, have directly resulted from this “free time”. It also gives the employees an investment in the company. They feel that they are part of the company, not just working for it. Isn’t this something every classroom, campus, and district should thrive for?
I am here to challenge every teacher and administrator. Find a way to incorporate this aspect in your classroom, campus, or district this year. As a teacher, try a genius hour or 20% time project with your class, whether it be finding an hour a week or maybe one day/afternoon a 6-weeks or 9-weeks. Give your students a chance to learn about something they choose. Let them find a passion that they can truly invest in, then let them take time to work to create or improve something related to that passion.
As an administrator, incorporate the same concept with your staff. Take a staff development day and allow teachers to team up and work together on an issue or passion that they feel would benefit your campus/district. Total autonomy to solve a problem that they see with the students, whether it be a teaching strategy, a schedule change, or a new bus procedure (to name a few) could reshape your campus. These people devote their lives to improving the lives of others. Give them a chance to invest in their campus…take ownership of it…and provide new, innovative ways to improve it. They know better than anyone where the needs are and may have the best way to address those needs.
Do not forget that there must be time allowed to come back and share, whether it be a classroom of students or a campus of teachers. Celebrate what they have accomplished. You may be surprised…the “problem” you have been working to solve for years just may appear.