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9 innovation tips from pioneering schools

Schools from across the country offer advice for fellow schools chasing innovation

Stories about innovation seem to be everywhere, and with good reason–educators are searching for groundbreaking strategies to inspire and improve education for every student in every classroom.

Because innovation is topmost in many educators’ minds, eSchool News put out a call for innovative educators, schools, and districts across the U.S. through the inaugural Distinguished Innovator Awards program. (Read more about our winners here!)

Our panel of judges chose one winner per category, but we received so many inspiring nominations that we decided to share some of our finalists with you.

Perhaps you feel your school has stalled on its own journey to an innovative learning space. Or maybe you’re looking for a good starting point to refresh your school and your approach to teaching and learning.

This question, which we asked as part of our awards nomination progress, might give you the inspiration you need to identify more innovative practices for your school:

What advice would you give to other schools seeking to try new things and redefine teaching and learning?

1. The Village School (Houston, TX)

Here are five tips:

  1. Take it one step at a time and start small if you need to.
  2. Start by building a lesson plan or project.
  3. Be open to feedback from your peers.
  4. Work with teachers in the same department to collaborate and build upon each other’s ideas.
  5. Don’t be afraid to start the cultural change at the leadership level.

2. Saint Ambrose School (Brunswick, OH)

The best advice we can provide is to always be open to new ideas and always be willing to share new ideas with your teachers. Don’t hold back. Your teachers will rise up and embrace new changes if it is something that will help their students to grow and develop. Teachers are always willing to implement change at the benefit of their students. Talk with other schools to see what has worked with their programs and what hasn’t.

3. Big Spring High School (Newville, PA)

Each school is unique and the people in specific schools need to look for opportunities and possibilities to innovate. This is done by asking a lot of “What If” questions and having a belief that everything can be improved. If you are the leader of a building or district, I think the most important thing is to create a culture of safety around trying new things for staff. The most important innovations come from the classroom teachers. Giving them the freedom to take risks, and supporting them with professional development, are essential.

The last bit of advice would be not to get caught up in perfection. Being innovative is messy and frustrating at times. We seek progress–not perfection–in everything we do. This is a challenge in schools where teachers often feel they need to have all the answers ahead of time. The reflection on what was done is the key element of innovation and improvement, and if you have to be perfect out of the gate, nothing interesting is going to happen.

4. University Liggett Middle School (Grosse Pointe Woods, MI)

Trust your high-flyers and empower them to try new things. There are so many great teachers just itching for a chance to try something innovative that truly breaks from the norm. If you only give them a chance, an entire school culture could change and create something amazing in the school.

5. Tomball High School (Tomball, TX)

Begin with a growth mindset. Turn your growth mindset into a learner’s mindset and be willing to take risks. These risks are easier to take when the culture is focused on learning. Shift your culture, shift your experience.

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Laura Ascione

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