As the school year comes to an end, I’ve been reflecting back over the last few years and am reminded of the quote from “We Bought a Zoo” author, Benjamin Mee:

“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

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As an avid traveler, some of my best experiences have been those “heart in the throat” moments – scuba diving for the first time, swimming and climbing to see the ATM cave in Belize, jumping into the water with whale sharks, spending the night in a hammock in the Amazon jungle, chaperoning students to Russia and living in a Russian home, and sitting in a broken down ferry in the middle of the Red Sea.

As educators, we’ve got to have that same insane courage. Not every experience is going to turn out how we had planned, but we’ve got to be willing to take risks. I’ve invested a lot of time, thought, sleepless nights, hope, and insane courage in work that I believe is making a difference in the lives of children. Working with an outstanding team to plan and implement a 1:1 initiative and develop innovative practices has been the most professionally rewarding experience of my life. The big lessons from the last few years include:

  1. The learner comes first.
  2. Act. Nothing will ever change without those 20 seconds of insane courage. Keep your eyes on the challenge ahead and don’t stop.
  3. Great things happen with visionary leaders.
  4. Schools and districts must build their own capacity and should not rely on outside entities to direct their vision. In other words, don’t buy programs that promise the silver bullet effect. One size does not fit all.
  5. Involve all stakeholders in planning and implementing new programs.
  6. Make connections for learning and sharing. Be brave in asking for assistance. There are lots of wonderful people inside and outside of your organization who want to help (free of charge!).
  7. Support innovation within your school and district and remove the road blocks that keep teachers from trying new things.
  8. Open is better than closed. Hold your ideas lightly and listen to the advice of others.
  9. Scale innovations.

Not easy. Leading, building capacity, innovating, and scaling initiatives are hard work with many potential road blocks to success. The change must come from within your organization to be sustainable. As summer approaches, take those first steps to pitch a new idea, develop yourself professionally, or launch a new initiative. Go!

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