An area of growth for me this past year has been around the work of Inspired Spaces. Inspired space are places where the four C’s (communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity) can find a home. I look at a classroom and wonder why we have not adapted and changed our classroom set ups to match with 21st century learning. It is typical to see a bulletin board, typical student desks and a giant teacher desk. But I wonder how this creates an environment I might want to learn in. Most classrooms and principal's offices of today are not inspired learning spaces. In fact, if only the environment is considered, I would not want to spend any time in traditional classroom or in the principal’s office.
As building leaders we have the power to change this. First, throw out the rule book on what an office or classroom should look like. Now imagine how comfortable and productive you are at Starbucks or in your living room. As the building leader you have the power to build or begin to build a place where you can realize the four C’s happening. I look my office and I see the furniture I inherited from my predecessor. It’s time to let it all go! So I did.
Now, my office has a beautiful colored wall, a standing desk, a place to share our work, and tall stools. In addition, a small sofa, rug, and my Google certification and Google innovator project was added. My office invites people in. The door is always open and I often find teachers in that space, working, without me. I abandoned the rules on what a principal’s office is suppose to be and built a collaborative work space.
The result of this small change has been teachers have started making changes to their classroom, some big and some small. Principals leading this change can make a big difference in the learning spaces students get. You willingness to try will give teachers permission to try, re-invent, maybe fail and most of all learn.
As leaders we often hear, top down incentives will not work or they will meet resistance. However, I see a difference between principals as model leaders and forcing something on teachers. I see this as a gentle lead. I am not telling or forcing teachers to change classroom environments but am suggesting how it can be different. Surprising or not, some teachers make big changes and some others make small ones. Pretty soon the snowball effect takes over. But teachers need your permission to start. It begins with a nudge, and perhaps modeling-this is how I define a gentle lead.