I have written a lot about getting outside of your comfort zone both inside the classroom and outside of it. In 2008, I was selected as the faculty commencement speaker by the class of 2008 and delivered a speech that shared the story of my roller skating birthday party when I was ten. The theme of my address focused on the premise that in order to find success, one needed to adapt, modify, and apply skills in an ever-changing world. And, to use the best and most efficient tools at your disposal whether they were digital or analog. The experience, the journey is part of the human experience. If we miss these opportunities we stand to not only deprive ourselves of the wonders of life, but the next generation of leaders.
On Saturday, I was in Target at 9:30 am. This is about as far outside of my comfort zone I can possible get. But, this past Sunday was the fourth annual ornament swap that my brother and sister-in-law host every year and, I needed an ornament. After browsing for several minutes, I found a small, stuffed wooly mammoth. He was a lovely ornament and was very wooly. So much so that as I walked away in delight of my ornament, I soon found most of his wool on the front of my navy peacoat. As I brushed away the white and grey wool, I lost a button. One swipe and the button, second from the top on my one week old coat, hit the white tiled floor at Target. I stopped for a moment, picked up the button and found myself on a new mission for a sewing kit.
See, most humans possess a sewing kit, but I did not. I have no thread nor do I own a needle that you can thread. I asked two Target employees where I could find a sewing kit and much to my suprise, they looked at me as if I had asked where the high velocity hoverboard fuel was. Through logic and process of elimination, I found the sewing kit and further sealed my premonition that I could someday, if needed, work at Target.
Three days later, the story I am telling comes to fruition. And, I realized, just before I threaded the needle, was that the feeling of accomplishing something you never thought you could accomplish is a great feeling. What’s More, is that I had no idea how to do this and I could have just as easily dropped off my coat around the corner at the dry cleaners/tailors to fix. But, no. This was my challenge, my step outside of my comfort zone to try and learn something new. With the help of an Instagram post and a YouTube video, I was able to figure out what a needle threader is and, successfully thread that needle and sew the button.
So, what’s the point of this trite story? Well, it’s a simple morale. I work in an industry that is constantly shifting and changing by the day. Technology doesn’t sit still for users to “catch up” or “adapt”, it simply sets the market, and moves forward. So, something as timeless as threading a needle and sewing a button was completely foreign to me. It was a skill set I did not possess. But, I knew what tools and resources I needed to efficiently get to a solution.
And, this is what we must hope for our students every day. We, as educators and educational leaders, remain stuck in our ways. I have not seen one sign of innovation in education since I started in this profession. Yes, things, devices, aesthetics have changed, we’ve recycled old philosophies and added a buzzy new name, but innovation has not yet found its way into the field of education. To say otherwise, is an irresponsible use of the word that has been associated with Edison, Earhart, King, Jr., Jobs, Musk. The highly competitive global economy is setting the standards by which all future leaders and workers must adapt. If we are not providing our students ample opportunities to step off the path and design solutions to problems, then we are not doing our job as educators. This is not about an app or a device, but simply about learning. The best learning happens when teachers step back and let students find and design solutions not just for a grade, but for a greater purpose of self-discovery.