A culture of creativity is alive and well at Garnet Valley! Having so many educators from our district selected to present at #ISTE19 is humbling. I’m always amazed when I see how creative and fearless our teachers are in the classroom but to see their hard work recognized by the #ISTE19 selection committee reinforces those beliefs.
This culture of risk-taking is no accident. Our superintendent provides the structure and clarity for classroom innovation. He continually models new instructional practices, often courageously creating instructional videos for our “Blended Opening Day” and summer admin work. His courage has become contagious as many of our teachers now create instructional videos to deliver their teaching in new and exciting ways. As a result, our teachers are better able to reach multiple learning styles within their classrooms, provide guided instructions in video format, and return the ownership of learning back to their students.
I’m sure most district leaders agree that taking creative risks is important for innovation to occur in the classroom, but in far too many districts, they don’t act like they believe this. When district leaders are willing to model new innovative practices the end result is a psychological safety net for teachers who are willing to take creative risks in their classrooms.
In her book, The Fearless Organization, Amy Edmondson explains (1) what psychological safety is (2) what it is not and (3) how we can create it in our organizations. According to a recent post in LeadershipNow, psychological safety is not about taking all of the bumps out of the road. Rather, it’s the oil in a machine, it makes everything else you’re doing work better. It is an enabler. Psychological safety makes it possible for other drivers of success (talent, ingenuity, diversity of thought) to be expressed in ways that influence how work gets done. Without it, people will withhold thoughts, ideas, and contributions that are vital to growth, renewal, and the overall health of our schools.
Edmondson admits that this is not an easy process. As she writes, “creating psychological safety is a constant process of smaller and larger corrections that add up to forward progress.” Thankfully, Garnet Valley is not afraid of this kind of difficult but important work.