Are there schools out there that provide Genius Hour/20% time type opportunities for teaches? I hear of so many schools that have bought into the passion-driven learning and maker space type learning that allows students to channel their interests and energy into meaningful experiences. Are we doing the same for teachers?
Teachers are already doing this. If you know the Edcamp movement, you know that teachers are spending their time on the weekends to gather and develop ideas together. Unfortunately this is not always with the support or feedback of their schools or districts. If schools were to do this in their buildings, they would not only spark innovation within the school, but other teachers and administrators would be able to give the support and feedback needed to make the work more likely to succeed. If teachers are willing to spend a whole Saturday in order to improve their teaching, imagine what they could do with an actual work day.
What if we told teachers, one day each month, instead of an in-service/professional development day in which administrators or an outside expert teach you something, you can work on a project of your choosing that might help the school. At the end of that day, each person or group will present their work to the community. The community would celebrate the work and the ideas, using some of them as stepping stones to future endeavors. I imagine that teachers would continue their work as a passion project outside of teaching time or continue the work again next month when given another opportunity.
Building off of the idea that people need to feel autonomy, mastery, and purpose to do their best work, this would accomplish many of these goals. In this case, teachers would be given autonomy and, because they know there is an audience waiting to see their work, the goals of mastery and purpose become internal. Who your work is for (teachers, students, the school community) is up to you. How you reach mastery is up to you. How many great ideas do you think could come out of such a session.
As Carla Shalaby said, teachers want to be reminded about the world-changing aspirations of our jobs. Not everything in schools can be world changing, but the opportunity to break away from the mundane is an opportunity to feel like a world-changer. Teachers know that children are powerful beyond all measure. They are with them every day of their working life. Teachers have ideas for how to improve their classrooms and learning experiences, but limited time leads to limited changes and limited success. Empower teachers to empower students. Give them the time, space, and resources to explore ways in which students and teachers can develop the ideas they know can improve learning.
An even better idea. Give teachers genius hour-type time to work on ideas that would make schools better…with their students!