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If you knew you would succeed, what would you try?

Posted by on in Education Leadership
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Conversation on the topic of innovation in education can be found at every turn. If you Google search it right now, you’ll get more than 350 million results. Articles abound (like this one from Edutopia) on the topic of innovation in education, and in seconds, anyone can find videos (like this that features Bill Gates) or lists of innovative educators worth following (like this one – look on page 15).

There’s something contagious and exciting about innovation. The best educators thrive in the search for serving students well, and that shows today more than ever.

Even with all these voices in the conversation promoting innovation, innovation is still a little intimidating for me.

It’s not that I don’t want to take part in it. I led the charge to change our bell schedule moving into this year to give our teachers opportunities to help students who were tough to catch up with before and after school (probably equal parts “I won’t” and “I can’t” make it in for help outside of school).

Still, these moments, and probably many others, stand in the way of getting a great idea off the ground:

  • The moment when you convince yourself that this isn’t crazy.
  • The moment when you convince yourself that it is, but we’re going to try it anyway.
  • The moment when you first share the idea and someone else is excited with you.
  • The moment when your first (well meaning) critics arise.
  • The moment when the naysayers and yabbuts (you know, the ones who say, “yeah, but” all the time?) enter the conversation.
  • The moment when your idea begins to get traction.
  • The moment when you put your idea out there for a superior (who likely has the power to approve or nix the whole thing)

In many cases, it’s our fear of failure (or fear of being seen as a failure) that limits our willingness to take those risky first steps toward meaningful change and innovation in our schools.

I don’t like to lose. I just don’t like it. And every time I toss an idea out there that doesn’t stick, I feel as if I’ve lost. That’s something I’m working on.

It’s been helpful for me to think about this in view of this question: If you knew you would not fail, what would you try?

That’s my question for you today. Think about where you are, what you’re faced with, and what you’re not pursuing because of what might happen.

What would you do if you knew you would be successful? What would you try? What ideas would you entertain?

Would you be willing to teach a tougher group of students?

Would you be willing to revamp your entire course? A unit? A lesson that’s never been up to par?

Would you be willing to look at students differently? Teach them behavior as well as you teach your academic content?

Would you be willing to admit that you don’t have it all figured out?

What questions would you ask?

What would you most enjoy doing that fear of failure is stopping?

As you think about the risks you could choose to take, consider this question I saw earlier this year from A. J. Juliani (@ajjuliani):

“What if we started asking, ‘What’s the best that could happen,’ rather than ‘What’s the worst that could happen?'”

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Aaron Hogan is a high school assistant principal in College Station, TX. Prior to serving in this position, he taught high school English. Throughout his teaching career, he enjoyed the rewards and challenges of teaching both struggling and high achieving students. As an assistant principal, he values asking great questions. In addition, Aaron especially enjoys talking through the intricacies of great classroom instruction, the benefits of social and emotional learning, and the value of teaching students to embrace risks in their learning.

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Guest Friday, 09 December 2016