Take your time, Be impatient

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There is a challenge in education in which we must show patience – with students, parents, fellow teachers – but if we want to accomplish certain goals, we have to work hard, even impatiently, rather than waiting for them to happen. Finding that balance is a challenge, but it is also important to improving your student’s experiences and your teaching.

My working theory:

Be impatient with your preparation. Be patient with the results.

Over the last year, I’ve started to take a deeper dive into design thinking. To me, design thinking is a new way to view everything I do in the classroom. Though it started out with product design, its application in education feels so obviously useful, that I can’t help but be excited.

In preparation for a workshop next week, I have been reading up, watching videos, trying as many design thinking strategies as possible. Of course, this work has led me to many stories about David Kelley, founder of IDEO, and his brother and fellow IDEO design thinker Tom Kelley’s. This week, I started Tom’s book, The Art of Innovation, and watched what seemed to be the catalyst for IDEO’s popularity, a Nightline story about the company’s process.

art of innovation

Change takes time – Big moves from small shifts

The thing that jumped out to me in both cases was the date. The book was published in 2001. The Nightline story was from 1999. The book is introduced with what must have been an eye-catching fact in 2001: the company helped design the Palm V handheld organizer. It blew me away that this “new” tool of design thinking that so many schools are embracing has been around for decades (Kelley started the company that later became IDEO in the 70s). I even remember using the Palm Pilot in my college courses in the early 2000s, testing it out as a tool that might be used in classrooms.

Aside from my nostalgia, my thoughts have wandered from being frustrated to thrilled – Why didn’t I find this sooner?I’m so glad I found this! Why didn’t schools catch on more quickly? This makes so much sense, I’m trying it out right now. While I wish someone had showed this to me in college or early in my teaching career, I’ll take it now.

Joy Kirr’s book, Shift This, emphasizes the importance of making gradual changes as teachers. Some move faster than others, but we have to move at a pace that helps us and our students to be successful. From my personal experiences, it is clear that improving our teaching or our schools takes time.

Kelley even describes in the book examples of small innovations that led to significant shifts in the market. When they redesigned the Crest toothpaste tube, the company wanted to eliminate the twist cap. The pop-top they designed was clearly better in their eyes, but their users had been trained to twist a toothpaste cap on, so they made a compromise. Sometimes, our users (students, teachers, parents) are only ready for small shifts. That new Crest bottle design changed the market selling millions of products. (Interestingly, my Crest toothpaste bottle looks pretty standard today. I wonder what happened?) It feels like design thinking now, which appears to be such an obvious fit in education. That, however, is because other people have been making small shifts to get to this point.

Crest.jpg
That one small innovation of a modified twist cap led to multiple options in stores today.

I remember hearing about design thinking for the first time five or six years ago. I was intrigued, but not enough to push forward with it. I am thrilled that someone else did. Because I truly believe it’s going to change the way I teach and lead. The excitement I’ve had going through these resources and activities this summer is invigorating. The possibility of big change is the invigoration needed, definitely in education, but probably in any profession, to move you forward in your work.

Be impatient – Toe the line with patience

Here is my challenge. I consider myself a patient person, which is typically useful in teaching, but it can also mean a willingness to wait for other people to get on board with ideas.  As I’ve been learning from my experiences with Genius Hour and maker spaces and innovative teaching, these things don’t happen on their own. They take someone with an idea, but also supporters that will be fellow champions for the idea. A friend posted a video of an Aussie rules football player talking to his teammates about his retirement. In his speech, he tells them, “Be impatient with your careers!”

Some might take it to mean expect greatness now. My take is, if you want something, you better work hard enough to get it. Great things don’t happen because we believe they will. You have to put in the work, and when the opportunity arises, you are prepared to seize it. At first, the small shifts may appear to have little value at the time, but each step is critical to making that massive change.

When you find something that you believe can improve education, start by putting the work into your own teaching. Do the research, find someone to go along for the ride or just to support you in the endeavor. Keep sharing the idea and your work with others. Let your successes be known, even on a small scale. Reflect on why certain elements have been more or less successful. How would you advise others to use those lessons?

Grow your impatience. Like a pop song that grows on us, ideas do the same. As you share your ideas, others will consider them and take them on. And then work even harder to make sure you’re even better prepared. To answer their questions. To implement plans. To support and champion the idea further. Like that Aussie footie player said, you may not get another chance. Be so ready that you can’t fail. That isn’t to say there won’t be failures, but prepare yourself for those missteps.

Prepare with impatience, but have patience with the results.

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