Friday, May 29, 2020


Geroge Couros with Katie Novak INNOVATE INSIDE the BOX—Empowering Learners Through UDL and the Innovator’s Mindset

Non-fiction has been my book of choice for as long as I can remember. On a rare occasion, when I read or listen to an audio story...I speed-read or fast-forward to the end of the book 99% of the time. I just get bored and want it to end. With the limited time I have to sit quietly and absorb the words in a text, I want it to be meaningful to me and to help me as an educator continue to learn and explore new ideas. George Couros and Katie Novak’s book Innovate Inside the Box did just that and pushed my thinking forward to being and becoming a better leader who still has a lot to learn.

The book has three parts. The first section focuses on the foundation of relationships, the learner, the master learner, and the learning experiences that have the greatest impact on all of us. The second section takes us back to the characteristics found in Couros’ first book The Innovator’s Mindset but adds the expertise of Novak’s experiences with Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Finally, the third section gives the reader a challenge to align with the “Change You Seek”. At the beginning and end of the book, the authors ask three questions. My hope is my personal reflections will propel another educator to read the book in order for even more of our students around the world to feel empowered on their own learning path.

Question One: What has challenged you?

I can’t get passed this one...yet. I am truly passionate about early literacy. Providing our students with the foundational skills needed for reading success now and as they transition into individual dreams and pursuits is what truly drives me. Teaching students to read and read well in order for them to make sense of their world in my opinion is a civil right each child deserves. As a leader in a turnaround school if I don’t make that a priority every single day more than kids don’t move forward in a world that doesn’t wait for them to catch up. Where do these foundational skills fit into UDL?

Couros stated clearly early in the book, “Let me clarify something: Being an innovative school or teacher doesn’t mean you abandon the “basics,” it means you are focused on going much further than what only the basis could provide” (p.61). Yes! We are totally in alignment with this thinking. My challenge is creating a type of balance between the two, without accidentally creating a this then that mindset. Not insurmountable...but does tax the strength of one’s dendrites. 

Question Two: What has been reaffirmed?
Relationships are the core component of learning. Amen. Hand-clap. Head nod. Thank you to the authors for stating this over and over in a variety of valuable ways. These human connections are vital to educators in a world full of competitive distractions. These connections are not only what helps us understand our learners in order to engage them in the learning’s a great way to “pass the baton” for them to take charge.

In my early literacy scenario, I am navigating Couros and Novak’s thoughts on moving from compliance (you are going to learn to read), towards their why or engagement (reading will help you learn), to ultimately (reading to connect or create something you value). The following example used in Innovate Inside the Box, helped me tremendously to clarify these connections.

“You will be better at speaking if you are good at listening.”
Your writing will probably benefit from reading the work of others” (p. 55).

Question three: What will you do moving forward?
Our district just adopted the UDL framework for lesson planning in order to reframe the learning experiences for each of our students. The teacher’s initial UDL training was rolled out just a few weeks into Distance Learning during the COVID19 pandemic. No commit..not my decision. And note to self...never do that again.

I know as the building lead learner I will be looked to for guidance, direction, and frankly mindset on how we move forward as a cohesive team for the students in our school. This is one of my greatest joys and biggest challenges. I continue to move two steps forward and one step back as a leader...but we are getting closer to our goals to have each of our students leave their elementary school years as not only a reader but a child who is excited about learning and also is developing the mindset their efforts really have an impact.

To move forward I want to make commitments to my teachers as lead learners in their classrooms, grade level teams, and our school community. I want to commit to providing “Multiple Means of Engagement” for all of us to take risks and fail forward both individually and as a collaborative team as we relentlessly pursue our path of equity by ensuring each student becomes a learner who reads and reads well for self-meaning. 

#WeGotThis #WeCanDoHardThings #ItsNotWhatYouDobutHowYouDoIt #TogetherWeSucceed

No comments:

Post a Comment