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“You cannot discover new oceans unless you lose sight of the shore” – Unknown
I love that quote, don’t you? Whether you interpret the “ocean” as pushing you in new directions, a path to adventure, letting go of your comfort zone, or simply encouragement to innovate, it is such a welcome message. Losing sight of what is in front of you to visualize the future
Today’s post is about why and how to innovate – whether you’re a classroom teacher, tutor, or simply want to innovate in a different part of your life. If you’re an online teacher or private tutor, learning to innovate is especially helpful when you look for students. (Check out my course on profitable tutoring if you need help setting up a tutoring business)
3 Reasons To Innovate & Fail
Are you an innovator? Do you seem to come up with new ideas, new perspectives and constantly find different ways to innovate? While it may seem exhausting and risky at first, I think that when we innovate, we learn so much. Even if that means failing first!
Here are three reasons I think all of us should innovate:
1. It Makes Us Stronger
Getting out of our comfort zone is often difficult, but I believe it’s so worth it! Sometimes innovating means failing – but that’s okay! Would any new, cool ideas have arisen if we stayed with the status quo?
We have to fail first. Trust me, I’ve failed a lot – but every time, it brought me closer to the life I desire. Each time that I felt like I could barely hang on, something in me grew stronger and I pushed harder and harder the next time.
For example, I completely failed to find a job in the UK that would let me gain immigration status. (I did find a few jobs, but none that were willing to create a visa to let me stay).
However, that was definitely a “blessing in disguise” as they say. Even though it took me a good two years to get used to the cultural differences, four years later I absolutely love my life in Barcelona!
2. Gain Confidence: Fake It Until You Become It
If you’re a big TED Talk fan, you’ve probably seen Amy Cuddy’s famous TED Talk on her life-changing accident. I love this quote from her – “fake it until you become it!”. When she suffered brain damage and people told her that her dreams of completing a degree and becoming an academic were over, she pushed on through.
Every time she felt she couldn’t, she faked it.
Even if we don’t have the confidence right away, believing our goals are possible is important.
So whether your idea to innovate seems a little crazy to your peers is beside the point; if you want to do it – fake it until you become it!
3. Find Your Purpose
This one is quite simple for me – being able to innovate has allowed me to find my purpose. Although I’ve tried a lot of different career paths, I finally know what I want to do. Teaching, writing and running an educational blog are my passions. I definitely wouldn’t have figured this out without failing, though!
Small Ways To Innovate
Well, that’s all really great, you say, but who has the time for that? Personally, I believe two things:
First, we can make time for anything. So, it’s really a question of priorities. Do you prioritize innovation?
Second, even the small actions we take count.
Here are a few small ways to innovate:
- Follow bloggers and leading influencers in your field on social media. You’ll be surprised how often they post really great ideas that are easy to apply to your own life.
- Brainstorm freely – Before you start a project, forget the guidelines for a minute and brainstorm how you would approach it without any rules or restrictions. When you have a mindmap of ideas, check which ones are within any firm restrictions you have – and go for it!
- Keep an idea journal – Next to your bed, or on your desk keep a journal that you run to every time a “crazy idea” comes to mind. When you have a Sunday free, flip through your idea journal and see which ones you can turn into reality.
How Can Teachers Innovate?
One of my favourite definitions of a great teacher comes from my friend and fellow English teacher Sierra Forest.
In a post the other day, she narrowed “being a good teacher” down to 4 qualities:
Innovation. Patience. Empathy and Perseverance.
Since that today’s main theme, let’s look at a few ways teachers can innovate. I’m starting a new teaching job next week at a private university, and I’m so excited to innovate there.
Here are a few ideas:
- Ditch the textbook – At least for part of the week, add in activities that come from the real world – a current news story, pop culture, a song, a book – there are so many options!
- Collaborate – So many English and ESL teachers I see in Facebook groups are connecting with other teachers. For example, ESL classes are finding entire other classes in a different part of the world to write exchange letters to. What a great and motivating way to practice a second language!
- Improvise – Students not understanding? Do they seem frustrated or in need of a break? Try playing some games, or improvising conversations about topics that are relevant to them. For example, I’ve had random lessons ranging from Architectural Digest magazine and interior design to social issues such as Catalan independence.
If you want more ideas on qualities that great teachers have, this Washington Post article has a good list.
Patience & Empathy
I’d like to take this chance to add a little sequel to last week’s post on my grueling, disappointing surf lesson.
If you remember, the instructor I had before (though affordable) lacked patience, empathy and understanding. Patience is so important when you work with beginners, but my last instructor seemed to want me to push harder and faster, without letting me slowly go through the steps.
Not only did I ditch those classes to register in group classes at surf school, but I took a private lesson at the surf school this morning just to compare.
Wow, what a difference empathy can make! The instructor at Eskola de Surf Pukas today said that I was missing “training wheels”; the last instructor had jumped straight into trying to teach me advanced techniques with the baby steps.
Baby steps are important! Understanding our students is, too, in my view. You know what the most important part was though? I actually had FUN in surf class today – and that makes all the difference.
It’s true that teaching requires perseverance, too. Sometimes we have students or classes that are more difficult to teach, or admin issues that are frustrating, but we need to keep going. I haven’t met too many teachers that have trouble with this one, though. I think the most important part is that we motivate our students to keep going, too.
What qualities do you think make a great teacher? What do you do in the classroom (or what have your teachers or professors done?) to make your learning experiences great?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. I read and respond to every comment! 🙂
Have a lovely and productive week!
P.S. The photo for today’s post (and poster!) is one I took in the Mediterranean Sea on a sailing trip in June 2017.
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