It is human nature to avoid change. We must be very motivated, both invested emotionally and with a solid reason, in order to make a change. The skills needed to meet the needs of learners graduating into the current global economy are substantially different than the skills that many teachers were introduced to in their educational programs. Even current educational programs aren’t focusing on the main skills that teachers are running up against. Several students recently told me they were stressed out and when I asked what they were stressed about, they shared that they were concerned that they weren’t going to be prepared for their futures. I expected them to say homework was stressing them out. There is lots of discussion about the fact that students need different skills than they have in the past but what about teachers? What are the dispositions and habits needed of a teacher who has the responsibility to prepare learners for a completely unknown and unpredictable future? The pace at which everything is changing is something that all of us need to embrace.
At the top of the dispositions that are helping teachers innovate in their classrooms is the ability to develop trusting relationships. This includes relationships with all the stakeholders including students, parents, and extending out to the community. These teachers don’t hesitate to reach out to parents when things are still going well. They call parents to include them in classroom decisions they are making about students. They don’t wait for big incidents to occur before they reach out. These teachers email students to check in after they have shared that they are having a rough day or just because. These teachers listen to kids and take them seriously no matter what their own personal feelings are about a situation. These teachers actively seek out people in their building to work with on a variety of levels. They ask for help from other teachers. They plan with other teachers. They look for opportunities to work with others outside their content area. These teachers look for opportunities to get out into the community. They invite members of the community into the building for exhibitions of learning or to collaborate on class projects. They see their work day in the hours after school, looking around their community for opportunities and human resources that could relate to their subject areas.
When teachers have trusted relationships with stakeholders, they are more easily able to innovate. They are more well supported because of these connections. They get a wider variety of ideas because of these connections. People are more willing to help, work with and work for these people because they are trusted. The ability to form trusting relationships is a key skill needed to be an innovative teacher and it isn’t a skill they teach in college.