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April 3, 2016

Keep Things Innovative

Oneof my favorite author's wrote a blog post last week that has kept me thinking all week. In her post, she mentioned that we shouldn't be too ambitious with how we want to impact the world around us; she suggested that we should focus our energies in fulfilling our current roles instead. Although I adore the blogger, I can't completely agree with her. I think we should definitely strive to perform well in whatever we find ourselves doing today, but that doesn't' mean we shouldn't be pushing ourselves outside of society's tiny boxes.

There are plenty of biblical figures who didn't conform from Moses to Jesus himself. From a modern perspective, Apple wouldn't be were they are today if they hadn't branched out into the cell phone industry, The Honest Company would not not exist if Jessica Alba thought the only shoe she could fit was that of an actress, Joanna Gaines from Fixer Upper wouldn't be dazzling all of us with gorgeous homes if she hadn't given design a try despite majoring in Communication, and we wouldn't have women in the MLS if they didn't practice countless hours after working an exhausting 7 hour corporate job to chase a dream.

We shouldn't settle if our passions lead us into the unknown or challenges.
I've seen powerful nonprofit organizations, books, and companies arise from God given visions and dedicated hands. Prayer is so important as we're in the middle of the messy process though because sometimes things don't turn out exactly as we had envisioned and other times we find out that they just weren't meant to be...and that's ok too.

However, I agree with the author that we often overlook opportunities that present themselves in our daily lives to create, inspire, and motivate--I'm glad I finished reading her post because her overall message helped me become more aware of creative opportunities in my workplace this past week.

One of these opportunities came about when I was teaching a lesson on the Cherry Blossom Festival to a classroom of students with intellectual disabilities and autism. This Japanese festival celebrates friendship, by the way, and the main attraction is kite flying. One of it's unique traditions involves a kite kite decorating competition. During the presentation and class discussion I learned that many of my students had never seen a kite before or flown one. Hearing that really saddened me because I remember how whimsical and captivating those flimsy things were to me as a child. Feeling the pull of the wind was also pretty exhilarating!

The session went on as usual...vocabulary was reviewed and students answered comprehension questions related to the lesson, but as I sat in my office writing a report later on in the day, I couldn't stop thinking about my students' lack of experience. So, I quickly searched my room for materials I could use to make paper kites! I found colored paper, tape, and a few left over straws from a meeting my professional learning community held at my school earlier in the year. With borrowed yarn from a classroom teacher, the kids were able to make their very own kites the following session. The activity was so fun and I won't ever forget the moment I saw their little faces light up at the site of a kite soar in front of their very own eyes. I'm certain they'll remember the lesson too.

In the county I work for all of our instructional personnel have to choose one instructional element to work on each year and I selected presenting unusual and intriguing information to students as part of my growth plan. I've already seen the positive effect incorporating high interest material in therapy has on student engagement and retention of new knowledge, but I'm looking forward to continuously grow in this area. I'll be honest, it's hard to find the energy to be creative when you're buried in paperwork, but it keeps my job enjoyable for both the kids and myself. Plus, research suggests students learn best through multiple mediums and context.

...but again, it's so easy to fall into a routine and forget to make room for innovation at work. Believe me, I'm guilty of it also. My husband works in the same field and inspires me everyday to try new things. Let's keep seeking fresh ideas. 

Here's a great article by Sara Predmore on contextual teaching and tips on how to implement it if you're interested Putting it into context

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