Podcast: Supporting Educators and Students as Innovators - Steve Barkley

Podcast: Supporting Educators and Students as Innovators

Supporting Educators and Students as Innovators

Chief Innovation Officer for the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), Tim Fish, explores how school leaders can support the environment and opportunities for educators and students to be innovators. How does your mission and vision lead to innovation?  Tim describes innovation as “a disposition, a way of behaving, a way of seeing ourselves and the world aligned with our challenges and progress we are trying to make.”

Listen to Tim’s Podcasts here.
Contact Tim: fish@nais.org

Subscribe to the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast on iTunes or visit BarkleyPD.com to find new episodes!


Steve [Intro]: 00:00 Hello and welcome to the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. Instructional coaches and leaders create the environment that supports teachers to continually imagine, grow and achieve. They model an excitement for learning that teachers in turn model for students. This podcast is dedicated to promoting the important aspects of instructional leadership. Thanks for listening. I’m thrilled you’re here.

Steve: 00:34 Supporting educators and students as innovators. The Chief Innovation Officer at the National Association of Independent Schools, Tim Fish, is joining our podcast today. I was fortunate to connect with Tim when he led a group of facilitators of which I happened to be one, as we guided teams of international educators engaged in innovative approaches to reaching desired outcomes at their schools. After working virtually over several months, the teams gathered in Dubai for two days of sharing insights and continued learning. Outside the sessions, I had a chance to have those extra conversations with Tim, and I’m delighted that he agreed to share his experiences and insights in the podcast. So, welcome, Tim.

Tim: 01:24 Thank you so much, Steve. It is so great to be here. So great to see you again. Thanks for asking me to join.

Steve: 01:30 Your time is much appreciated. I know from our from our breakfast and bus conversations, this’ll be good.

Tim: 01:38 Oh, it sure will. We’ll have no problem filling the time, I’m sure, Steve.

Steve: 01:43 So I’m wondering, for starters, if you’d share with people some of the pieces from your background that led you to have a focus on

Tim: 01:51 Yeah, sure. So I started my career as a fourth grade teacher in Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, where I started innovating as a 22 year old who didn’t have any sense of what he was doing. I always say to people, I think my philosophy of teaching when I was a first year teacher was, if I’m talking, they must be learning. So I’ve learned a lot since then, clearly, but that was my design, that was my initial philosophy and I started really trying to innovate in my classroom. And then four years later, took a role in Fairfax County schools where I was a technology leader. So that was early days of the internet, late nineties. I was helping schools, I ran technology for eight schools, a high school, middle school, and a bunch of elementaries.

Tim: 02:40 And then I had a job where I was working in a department of instruction and helping to lead big organizational initiatives around instructional design and technology integration and innovation. And Steve, I found it had been a month – one day I went home and I said to my wife, it’s been a month since I’ve seen a child. I worked in an office building in an administrative building, and I said, I want get back to kids. And I somehow discovered independent schools and then went to a school called McDonogh School, a Pre-K-12th grade independent school outside of Baltimore, where I spent 18 years. Started as technology director and ended up as associate headmaster overseeing academic program and doing a lot with admissions, and doing a lot with fundraising and strategic initiatives. And during that time, I actually also spun off my company for the school.

Tim: 03:31 I started hiring students to write code when I showed up on the campus and the students built all kinds of applications. One of them was around faculty growth and development, and we ended up building a nonprofit called the Folio Collaborative, which is an organization of about 175 schools around the world committed to faculty development and faculty growth and we built a software platform to help manage that process. And so that was a super fun part of my journey. So you could say, in some ways, I’ve been innovating and for the last seven years I’ve been at NAIS in this new role. I’m the first one to venture into this role of chief innovation officer, whatever that actually means and I’ve had a ball working with hundreds of schools around the world as we think about really charting a path to our future.

Steve: 04:22 So, Tim, I’m gonna go all the way back to your start with the fourth grade story. I think I heard a piece there that seemed to link
through. Would you say that as that fourth grade teacher, innovation was driven by necessity?

Tim: 04:38 Oh, absolutely it was. It was absolutely driven by necessity. And it was driven by the fact that I felt like I wanted to live into my vision. I was, I think natively, somebody who was always interested in sort of how we might be able to do it a little bit differently. And I took a computer home, and that for me was like, I saw technology and particularly the computer as a lever that could help me unleash the power of my students. But I was definitely trying to sort of break free. And that was 1990-94 I was doing that work. And that was a time when the standards movement was just beginning. The state standards of learning were just coming around. But being a classroom teacher with 32 young people in my care was, I had a lot of freedom. I had a lot of autonomy. Certainly there was a curriculum that I was supposed to be teaching, but the way I did it was left up to me and the team. And I don’t know that it’s exactly the same way any anymore in the same way. I would love your thoughts on that, but I think it was a magic time to be teaching.

Steve: 05:53 Depends on where you are.

Tim: 05:55 Yeah. Depends on where you are. Yeah, that’s right.

Steve: 05:57 And I think some people find they have to move in order to find that and other people find that they can be in a system that seems
to be pretty fixed and structured, yet they find their own way frequently because of reputation. They have a reputation for having delivered, so with that reputation comes the freedom to be more innovative.

Tim: 06:25 Yeah. You know, Steve, I remember when I was there in the summer, and I was getting ready to teach for the first time in this fourth grade classroom and I remember, I was in the building and they rolled a filing cabinet into my classroom. We were switching – people were switching classrooms, and they rolled a filing cabinet in, and they said, where would you like your filing cabinet? I was like, I don’t know. I don’t have anything to put in it. And I went down to the office and I got a box of files and I came back and I opened it up. I’ll never forget. And I wrote math on one of them, and I opened up the third drawer and dropped it in. It was the only thing in there. And when I left my classroom four years later, every single drawer was packed. It was packed with stuff I made, you know, staying late at night as all new teachers do, and making the handouts and the worksheets and the ideas and the group lessons and so on.

Steve: 07:19 Can you give us a definition that we can work off of for innovation?

Tim: 07:25 Yeah, it’s really interesting. So you were so kind to send that sort of question to me ahead of time, and I started thinking, well, what would definition would I use? And so, like everyone else right now, I went and asked ChatGPT, what’s the definition of innovation? And ChatGPT responded, “innovation is a process of introducing a new idea, product, service, or process that creates value and improves upon an existing solution. It involves identifying a problem or opportunity and developing and implementing a novel solution that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, or society as a whole.” I was like, huh. There’s things in that that I think absolutely connect to my definition of innovation. Number one is, often is when we try to do something new, the key element also of innovation, I think is responding to a challenge. There’s something that you’re up against and you’re responding to it.

Tim: 08:34 The other piece for me that I think is really interesting is this idea that it builds value, that it creates value. Value in our classroom, value for the work we’re doing. So in our work, I work as part of a team at NAIS called the Strategy Lab team and we run these workshops for schools on strategy design, innovation design, and what we call action mapping. And one of the things we often talk about is the idea that we need to take what’s called a demand side approach. As educators, we should and often do, come to our work through a supply side, through our experience and knowledge about education and curriculum and pedagogy. And we say, I’m gonna sort of design it this way. And that’s important that we should do that as educators. And it’s important to have another view, a view of the learner, a view of the family, a view of the school community, and what do they need and what I’m designing, how does that align with what they need and how they see the progress they’re trying to make? And so I think innovation is a blend. It’s a blend of both what we know as teachers and educators, as how we design our supply side, and also taking into account sort of what others need. So for me, if I were to really boil it down, what I often speak about with innovation is that it’s a disposition. It’s a way of behaving. It’s a way of sort of seeing ourselves and seeing the world. And it’s aligning that with our challenges and the progress we’re really trying to make.

Steve: 10:15 As I was listening, I was hearing that to be innovative requires having a vision.

Tim: 10:25 It absolutely requires having a vision. I think, Steve, one of the things I talk a lot about with schools is the deep relationship between the mission of the school, and I think in the classroom as a teacher as well, what’s my mission as a teacher? What’s my purpose? Why do I fundamentally do this work? It gets back to Simon Sinek and his Ted talk on the why before the what. The power of why. Why do I fundamentally do this work? And then vision. Once we understand our mission, then our vision is what I call the public story we tell about the future we want to see, the story we tell about the future we want see. And the vision gives way to your strategy, the choices and bets you’re gonna make on how to achieve that future.

Tim: 11:18 And strategy’s a lot about trade-offs. You can’t do it all. You got to decide, I’m gonna be more about this and less about that. And then innovation, I believe, is downstream of strategy and vision. And if we don’t have vision and strategy, what we end up with is what I call random acts of innovation. That’s where we get into all the chasing the latest and greatest, the bright and shiny objects, the latest tech. Innovation for innovation’s sake. I think when, and I think you’re spot on, when innovation is disconnected from vision and strategy, that’s when it gets a bad name. That’s when everybody’s like, “oh, no, not more innovation. I can’t stand that word. Stop saying that.” It’s like, one of the hardest things about my title is this idea of chief innovation officer. People are like, what the hell is that? ? Like, who is this guy?

Steve: 12:05 Right. We’re tired of that .

Tim: 12:07 We’re tired of that innovation stuff, because that’s when innovation is, I think, suffered when it is just random, when it jumps
around, when it doesn’t have a core set of values that it’s aligned to, that’s when innovation gets in trouble.

Steve: 12:22 It’s interesting, a whole lot of years back, I used to keep putting in front of building principles, that every faculty meeting ought to have 10 minutes on the front end that allows people to be examining a piece of the mission, vision, belief value. All those schools tend to have this exercise of where they go through that process and identify those things which go up on a poster or maybe get visited before the school year starts. But it’s bringing people back to keep looking at that vision, looking where it’s happening and where it isn’t happening and then where it isn’t happening is what would drive one to be looking for the kind of innovation that would allow you to get closer to your vision than you are.

Tim: 13:24 That’s exactly it. I think that’s exactly it. And connecting with – one of my things I’ve done all through my last seven years is, starting my career as a fourth grade teacher, I have a tendency to invent ways of explaining things that might resonate with a young child, . It’s sort of hardwired in my elementary teacher background. But I’ve developed this sort of what I call the innovators journey. And part of that journey is understanding what I call your now town. And so, if you imagine a mountain village, you being in Switzerland, you have a good sense of what that is. But imagine in the valley of this village is a house, a lovely house. And I call that house, “Now Town,” and it is lovely. You know, we go into our schools, they’re often very lovely, great people doing great work with kids.

Tim: 14:19 And one of the keys to innovation that I’ve seen when it’s successful, is you gotta understand what elements do you never wanna lose? What elements of your now town do you never wanna lose? And what’s your imperative to leave now town? Because often, we just want to stay there. We just don’t want anything to change. And we know, if we think about the education our children need for their futures, we know we have to be communities of – what I call communities of mountain climbers. And our vision is the shared summit that we’re trying to go after together and innovation is about bridging the gap from our now town to our summit. How do we move our community up the mountain? And part of it is understanding what’s our imperative to move? What challenges do we face? What kind of conditions are creating the need for us to move as a community? Creating that shared sense, that shared vision of imperative, that we want to go there. And knowing that, I always say, you can’t carry a house up a hill. So you gotta leave some stuff behind. You gotta put the most essential stuff in your pack, and then you gotta leave some stuff behind. And it’s the leaving the stuff behind, which I find can often be really challenging for folks.

Steve: 15:55 So in the work you’re doing with lots of different schools, what are some of the kinds of changes you’re envisioning are needed for schools to get closer to the schools that students need?

Tim: 16:16 Yeah, it’s a great question. So, for me, at a high level, so I run a podcast, as you know, and it’s called New View EDU and I talk to folks who are tangentially related to education. Some are in schools, some are authors, and other folks. And it’s interesting to me, we’ve now finished 40 or so episodes. And the one thing that has come up across almost every episode is this idea of the essential nature of agency. The essential nature of having choice, having some control over where I go. When you and I were, were together in Dubai, there was a panel discussion, and Catlin Tucker was on the stage, our friend, and she said, you know, I think something to the effect of, we need to stop asking students to answer questions that they didn’t ask.

Tim: 17:11 That is such a great example of where I think this idea of agency really comes in. And so for me, I’m inspired when I as chief innovation officer, I visit lots of schools, and when I show up, people are often like, we gotta show him the innovative stuff. The the CIO is here, we gotta show him around, right? So it’s interesting in hundreds of school visits, where do I get taken? What do they walk me into? What do they want to show me? And what’s interesting to me is I often will say that agency is the silent partner. No matter where they’re taking me. If they’re taking me into their pre-law experience where students have to argue and they mimic a courtroom environment, or they take me to their documentary filmmaking studio, or they take me to the robotics lab, or they take me to yet another makerspace, or they take me to whatever it is in that space where they take me, one of the most consistent things I notice is when I walk in, it’s hard to find the teacher.

Steve: 18:22 Yeah.

Tim: 18:22 I have to look around the room. I’m like, where is the teacher in here? I know they’re in there somewhere, but they’re in the midst of it. Their sleeves are rolled up, they’re doing the work alongside the students. And so what I always say is that – then we’ll go back, we’ll have lunch with teachers from those rooms, and they will often say, oh my gosh, more schools should be doing documentary filmmaking. More schools should be doing robotics, more schools should be doing pre-law, whatever. And yeah, those things are true, but it’s not the content. What is actually there – that’s why I say agency is the silent partner, because what they’re really talking about is that we unlock motivation and joy and accomplishment and rigor and challenge and complexity when we design the environment and then we figure out how to get out of the way. And that’s the hardest thing. When I was teaching fourth grade, that was the hardest thing for me to do was get out of the way. And so I think this idea of moving, as Jay McTighe says, moving to transfer, moving to knowledge, to understanding, designing for transfer, these are the kinds of things that I think we really need to be thinking about.

Steve: 19:38 I’m gonna ask you a question that may be a little hard to to answer, or it may be hard for me to hear the answer. I don’t know. We’ll see where it takes us. Those schools that took you to those classrooms that you just described, do those schools need more of those kinds of classrooms?

Tim: 20:00 Yeah. Oh yeah.

Steve: 20:03 That was my guess.

Tim: 20:04 When I go to those tours, when I go on those tours, I walk by a lot of other rooms that they’re not taking me into.

Steve: 20:13 So we need to know where the future is, we shouldn’t have to take you on a tour. If we said, just go down the hall and go in a

Tim: 20:23 Walk anywhere. Yeah. No, it’s curated Steve.

Steve: 20:27

Tim: 20:29 And I will say, I’ve been in places where it isn’t curated but those are often designed from the ground up. And I would think that in schools that are on this journey, schools will say, yeah, we wanna do more, but there’s things holding us back. And that’s been one of the things I’ve been curious about is, if we know what it is…

Steve: 20:51 Just what I was gonna say. So we do know what it is. The fact that they took you to those classrooms says they know what it is.

Tim: 20:57 They know what it is. I was working with a school the other day, we were talking about their vision, and we were doing this, and they were like, we know. We know if we walk into a room, we know if it is happening. And I said, oh, you do? Oh, yeah. And I said, do you know if you walk in a room and if it’s not happening? And they’re like, yeah. Well then what’s it? What is that thing you’re trying to do? And what’s holding you back? It’s a great exercise for a school team to talk about, what is our it? What does it look like for us? And I think that is just a great conversation to get into.

Steve: 21:38 So I have two questions that are similar, and I’m wondering to the degree to which you’ve you’ve already laid out the answer, so I was gonna ask you what’s the environment that school leaders need to create for teacher innovation? And then what’s the environment that teachers need to be creating for student innovation? And you’ve put one big word out of agency being a critical part. Am I right on that?

Tim: 22:09 Yeah. Right on. And I would say that this exists as much for educators as it does for students. We need to create the context where we’re able to give that agency. So for me, it gets back to what we said in the beginning, vision is key. We all know where we’re really trying to go. And I really look to the work of Peter Senge here, and the notion of shared vision. This idea that we have this common mountain, but also, everyone can live into that in their own way. That when a vision is too prescribed, it’s too specific, then it sort of strips me of that agency. So I need to be able to bring my creativity to that vision for where we’re trying to go. The other is, I think, certainly permission. I think that it has to be expressed, this idea that yes, do it.

Tim: 23:02 Try it. We’re with you. When we talk about leaving now town, I often say, just put your pack on and go for a day hike. You don’t have to leave forever. Just go up for a day, eat a sandwich, and come back. See how it goes. Try it out. What did it feel like? What did the view look like? What did it feel like to have your legs be a little tired? Go try it again tomorrow. Just put your pack on and go for a walk. I think the other thing we need is, certainly we need time. And that notion of resources and support, I think is gonna be key. We also need – there’s skill to this.

Steve: 23:48 I was gonna ask that from a skill vantage point, what are the kinds of skills students would be developing in schools that would increase their ability to take innovative action?

Tim: 24:02 That’s a great question. I think it’s the same skillset for educators and for students. I think we do a lot of work on our team with the folks at the Stanford D School. And I think one of the things we’ve taken away from that work is the idea that our educators are working in the role of designer. And so I think one of the things that I have found is that as we move toward that sort of agency rich environment, we, as educators, our role begins to shift. We move from being less in control, less the deliverer of it, and we move into a design and facilitation role. And so we need help on what does it look like to design? What does effective design look like? I think anyone – everyone is a designer naturally, but there are ways that you can do that better. There are some frameworks and tools you can use for designing an environment that can help. And I look at some of the work that’s going on in mastery based learning, competency based learning. I look certainly to things like UBD and others where we’re making learning visible. I think there’s a lot of different frameworks and tools we can use to design that, both experience and assessment. And then for the student, we need to help students work as designers as well.

Steve: 25:23 Was just gonna ask that. Yeah.

Tim: 25:24 So we have to, by design, we create the environment and the experience, we then step back and we create the space where the student
can become the designer as well. So recently on my podcast, I had a conversation with someone named Saed Aria, who is the founder of a school called NUVU Studio and school in Cambridge, Massachusetts. And Saed was someone who had grown up in Syria. He came to the US to attend MIT, he ended up finishing his PhD in the, in the school of architecture and computational theory and architecture and as he was in his last three years of his PhD work, he started working with some students in the Cambridge area and he got really excited about it. And so upon completion of his degree, decided to start a school.

Tim: 26:19 That’s not something that typically people who have a PhD in architecture do, but what he wanted to bring was the studio model that is so present in architecture to a classroom or school environment. And so in the podcast, we talk with him about what does studio learning look like? And he says, one of the things students have the hardest time doing when they first enter his high school environment is they jump at their first idea and then, if you give them any feedback on the nature of the idea, they get really threatened and like, what are you doing? Like, don’t you like me? What are you trying to insult me? Their identity and their idea are completely linked. And he says, one of the hard things to do, and one of the essential things to do is to separate your ideas from your identity. And that you can create an idea and then just let it go. And it’s that notion that I think when students work as designers, they can get in that space.

Steve: 27:30 I’m laughing to myself because a whole bunch of years ago, I used to use the model with teachers of what would studio math class
look like?

Steve: 27:41 And I laid it out by taking people to the art studio. And if you looked at the art studio, the art teacher gives this very short instructional piece that’s around a technique or a strategy and then the students go off to experiment with it. And then students are deciding when they’re gonna start walking around the room and looking at what other students are doing, and asking them how they got that how they got that shape or how they got the color blend they weren’t getting. And they’re getting that give and take back with with other students. And then the thing’s gonna end at some point with students looking at each other’s work as a group and the teacher leading that conversation. But my thought was what would it look like if the math problem went up and everybody went off to their studio approach to it? But in effect, the student becomes the designer and the teacher only does enough to get it started.

Tim: 28:46 And I taught seventh grade math when I was at McDonough’s school for many years. My job when I was there as associate headmaster was I often taught whatever needed. We needed somebody to teach math, we needed somebody to teach English. And seventh grade was my favorite place to land and I admit, as a math teacher, I did not create a studio. It was all about me. The structure of the room, I completely admit, was all about me. And you and I, when we started our conversation, you and I were talking when we were in Dubai together about a book called, “The Power of Giving Away Power” by Matthew Barson. And Barson talks about this notion of constellations. And the thing I love so much that he talks about is that when you’re in a constellation, when you’re working in a constellation, you are seen, you are known and you are needed.

Tim: 29:37 And that notion, I think we do a great job as educators of seeing and knowing our students. What I don’t know that we do such a great job of is having them feel needed in our classroom. When I taught seventh grade math, I think my students were seen and known. I think I did that. I actually do. I probably could have done it better, but I think I did it. What I didn’t do – they weren’t needed in my math class, and they weren’t there, like, math went on. What does it look like to design a math class or a history classroom or a fourth grade classroom where the students are needed in the space?

Steve: 30:15 That’s why the kids do the extracurricular.

Tim: 30:18 Yes. Because that’s where they’re needed. Right, exactly. Whether it be robotics or whether it be athletics, or whether it be the band, or whether it be the theater, or wherever it is, they’re needed in that environment. Yes, you’re missed.

Steve: 30:38 Yeah.

Tim: 30:38 So what does it look like to create a classroom, like you said, the studio, where if you are not there, you’re missed?

Tim: 30:46 I’ve been thinking about that one quite a bit. I don’t have a the perfect answer to it, but I think it’s a great question.

Steve: 30:57 So a lot of schools look at a profile of their of their graduate as their graduate leaves high school and heads out into the world. Does innovator fit somewhere in that profile? And how would a school look at describing that?

Tim: 31:20 Yeah, I think it does. I mean, I think innovation is gonna be a key piece. And I think it is in most of the descriptions, I think elements of innovation are in that piece. I think where, for me, the part of innovation that’s key to that is this idea of being able to sit with ambiguity and be able to apply tools to navigate your way through ambiguity. And for me, I often look to the work of, one of the things I’m really curious about, and I’ve been talking to schools a lot about, is like, I went back about six months ago and reread Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book, “Flow” from my graduate school days, and was really sort of blown away by how his description of this deep focus and the power of deep focus and what are the conditions that are necessary to get into a state of flow?

Tim: 32:22 You have to be dealing with something that’s complex. You have to be dealing with something that’s challenging. I recently had Mary Helen Immordino-Yang on the podcast, and she’s a neuroscientist at USC, who talks about the inseparable relationship between emotion and cognition. That you cannot, like biologically, cannot learn about something that you don’t care about and how emotion is the pathway. And so when you’re in flow, you have a deep emotional connection. This is where agency comes in again. And so one of the questions I’m wondering about is, and that’s where when I’m in an innovation mindset, I often am also personally get into a state of flow. And if we get back to Baron’s work, what does flow look like in a team/ When a team is in flow, what is that?

Tim: 33:14 That’s where you get the conditions of what he calls the constellation. Constellations happen when a team is in flow together working on designing and building something that never existed before. And so for me, when we think about this sort of notion of innovation as a disposition, or innovation as a skill, for me it’s like, what does it look like when we’re innovating? Because those are the conditions we want. The ability to collaborate, the ability to, to prototype, the ability to try and fail quickly, the ability to get yourself into deep focus, deal with deep ambiguity and, and challenge. These are the kinds of skills and dispositions that we need. And so then I ask myself if that’s what we want our students to have, what does school need to look like? What does the lived daily experience of the student need to be from the moment they get off the bus to the moment they get back on the bus? What does it need to look like if those are the things we’re trying to create? And again, what do we need to do more of and what do we need to do less of? I don’t know the answer this a hundred percent, but I do feel often when I walk around that we’re not yet all the way there. We’re nowhere near actually, frankly, a lot of times where we really want to be and where we probably really need to be.

Steve: 34:43 So you’ve got my head spinning. So let me toss it out and see if you can give it a little direction for me before we close out here, but I’m almost thinking that the skills of innovation are the ability to create the environment for yourself to practice innovation. It’s kind of like knowing what you need. I need a challenge, I need curiosity, I need confidence in trial and error, I need risk taking. So if I’m gonna be innovative and some of those things aren’t present, how do I make them happen for myself?

Tim: 35:34 I think that’s right on.

Steve: 35:35 There’s a role for us as leaders to play. If we go all all the way back to the question about some teachers can teach in an environment that people from the outside wouldn’t describe as innovative, but that teacher creates her own innovative environment even if it’s just within this wall for she and her students, that’s her empowerment. So how do we prepare kids to know what they have to make happen in order for that piece that’s inside them to come out and then teach them how to go about making it happen? Am I making any sense?

Tim: 36:17 I think you’re totally making sense. So a couple things that are really interesting to me, and one is in the second reading of “Flow,” the part that blew my hair back was that Csikszentmihalyi talks about when you are in flow, when you design the place, when you have created your own ability to get into that state of flow, not only does it sort of help with learning and everything else, but it also helps with your self-efficacy, with your self-concept, with your wellbeing, with your happiness, joy, deep joy is found in that. People are like, we have a wellbeing crisis in our schools, and I a hundred percent agree. We have not seen students with anxiety and depression and all kinds of things that we do not want see in our students and our staff.

Tim: 37:12 Aand what’s the path out of that? Well, it’s not a course in wellbeing in ninth grade, right? , it’s not the path out, right? A textbook on wellbeing. It’s gotta be in the work. And so for me, innovation done, the way you describe it, Steve, also has the opportunity to feed that belonging and wellbeing and sense of self that I think is so important for the work we need to be doing in our school communities. So it’s got a really, really strong, in my mind, strong imperative. But I do think, and I hope today the conversation to help with this, I think innovation has gotten kind of a bad name. I think people don’t really know what it means. So I don’t actually talk about it as much.

Tim: 38:06 I think innovation is a byproduct of these other dispositions and these other skills. You’re looking for like innovation in different minds. So Netflix has an old series that they produced, I don’t know, five, six years ago called, “Abstract.” I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it, it’s phenomenal. It’s called “Abstract” on Netflix. And it’s takes different highly creative people and you kind of watch how they work. And so episode one is about one a person who lives in Europe and has been the creator of many, many New Yorker, covers, the cover of New Yorker Magazine. And it sort of shows how he structures his environment and then starts with a blank piece of paper. And that’s a lot of where innovation comes from is a blank sheet and a product and a timeline and something I need to deliver.

Tim: 39:04 I think that’s a key piece. I think exhibitions of learning where a student knows six weeks from now, I’m gonna need, people are coming in and I gotta show them something, right? Those kinds of things. My favorite thing when I was teaching fourth grade was that whole notion of – imagine you are a historian… or imagine you are…as soon as you stuck that on front of anything, the kids’ engagement like went up by 30 points. And so what does it look like to design, again, those environments where we can, we can have students be able to experience what it feels like. And there is angst with that. That’s the other thing. One of my friends is a guy named Tyler Thigpen, and he runs something called, “The Institute for Self-Directed Learning,” which I would highly recommend.

Tim: 39:51 He’s also an Ed professor at the University of Pennsylvania. He also runs one of these Acton Academies in Atlanta, Georgia and he’s very big on developing the concept, what he calls self-directed learning. And one of the key elements of that is this notion of productive struggle. And I’m a huge fan. I think that, yeah, I think we need to reclaim rigor. We need to reclaim excellence. We need to show the new model of rigor and excellence because I believe schools should be rigorous. I believe schools should be excellent, but I think we’ve missed on how we defined it and it’s taken us down the wrong path. So I think innovation is a pathway to that new rigor and that new excellence.

Steve: 40:36 It’s at the core of flow.

Tim: 40:39 It is.

Steve: 40:39 That challenge has to be there. The rigor has to be there.

Tim: 40:44 Yeah. If it’s easy, you’re not gonna get into a state of flow.

Steve: 40:49 And it’s way too missing in too many students’ school days, and I’m afraid in too many teachers’ school days.

Tim: 40:57 Yeah, I think you’re right.

Steve: 40:59 Well, Tim, this has just been fantastic. I can’t thank you enough. Would you would you mind closing out by letting folks know how they could find your your podcast and some of your work and maybe touch base with you if they have questions they’d like to explore further?

Tim: 41:18 Oh, sure. Absolutely. Well, my email is fish@nais.org and my my podcast is called NuVU Edu and it’s on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, everywhere you get podcasts, it’s there. And so just do a search for it and if you’ve enjoyed this conversation, and Steve, you’ve been an incredible guest, and it’s interesting to be on the other side and do most of the talking because when I host it, it’s a lot more about the guests and a lot less about me. But I do have a tendency to throw my ideas in there as well.

Steve: 42:03 I knew you would, which is why I wanted you here, . I’ll put your email and your podcast in the lead-in to the podcast so it’s easy for folks to find. And I do want to encourage folks to to to listen into your podcast. I’ve had several good walks in the woods here in Switzerland by tuning into that since I’ve met you.

Tim: 42:30 Oh, well, thank you so much. And same is true of your podcast, and thank you so much for having me. And I’ll tell you, I’m also always open to ideas of how it could be better. I’m just one guy trying to figure out how to do it. So no pride of authorship on that stuff.

Steve: 42:44 Well, you take care and have a great day.

Tim: 42:46 Thanks. Take care. Bye-Bye.

Steve [Outro]: 42:50 Thank you for listening. You can subscribe to Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud on iTunes and Podbean, and please remember to rate and review us on iTunes. I also want to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on Twitter @stevebarkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.

Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Blog: Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud

Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Listen to Steve Barkley’s Latest Podcast

Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Academy for Educators

Become an expert in instructional coaching, blended and online learning strategies, engaging 21st Century learners, and more with online PD from PLS 3rd Learning.
Learn more

Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email