This past summer, my fellow 7th grade ELA teammates and I took a little trip. No, not that kind of trip. At the end of the school year, we decided to take a purposeful innovation retreat: a time we’d set aside to reflect, dream, design, and organize. A few weeks prior, my wonderful principal had taken the lead teachers at my school on a similar retreat to design our staff development for the upcoming year, and it was a great time of bonding and designing. I thought I’d take a cue from him, and plan a retreat with my own PLC (7th grade English Language Arts and Reading).
We’d been inspired by George Couros’ book, The Innovator’s Mindset. He challenged us to not just create something new, but to truly innovate- to create learning environments and ideas that are better and empowering for students. So that was our goal. What new and better things can we dream up and implement next year?
We spent three days and two nights at an Airbnb I found online in a neighboring city. We had to pay for it on our own, as most teachers are accustomed to, but it really wasn’t bad when split three ways- about $75 for the trip. And although it was only a 40 minute drive, it felt nice to be in a new setting with fresh inspiration.
Of course, we had a tentative schedule because we’re all squiggles. (Read more about squiggles here. )
Take a look at the schedule we followed.
As you can see, we set aside time to dream and design. Often times during the school year, we find that our dreaming time is shortened due to the fact that we actually have to get crap done. We don’t have time to just sit around for an hour or two and say, “Oh...okay, what if we did this!? Or what about that?” I mean, don’t get me wrong, we do that A LOT, but we really don’t have long periods of time to do that. And we’re usually dreaming when we should actually be detailing next week’s lesson plans.
Likewise, our designing time is sometimes commandeered by thoughts like, “We really need to teach this, so let’s just do what we did last year because we have to teach it next week, and we really don’t have time to create or dream-up the cool thing we would’ve wanted to do.” I’m being real here. Being creative and innovative takes time, and that doesn’t always come easily to educators. A balance of dreaming and design is key. That was our hope in this retreat-- to really spend time doing both.
I HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend doing this with your team if you can. Maybe you can’t do an overnight, but you could have a day or two over the summer that you set aside to get to know each other, hang out, dream, and design. Or, do you have another way you balance dreaming with designing? What about those of you who don't have a team? How do you balance design time? I’d love to hear from you.
With all of our required professional development, sometimes it’s hard to take the time we need to dream. Or, if you’re like me, you’d rather spend most of your time dreaming than nail down the details. We’re hoping that some of the things we purposefully designed this summer will be much more powerful and empowering in our classes this year. We’ll be posting about those ideas too, so stay tuned!
7th Grade ELAR