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Take Time for Innovation

by Lori Gracey

As an educator who’s been “doing this” for a very long time now (my, how the years how flown!), I have learned the importance of stopping once and a while to simply think. We get so busy in our day-to-day lives, hurrying to get things done and to help our students and colleagues and parents and community members. It’s easy to get so caught up in that whirlwind of activity that we forget that we have to recharge, too.

So I’ll ask you this simple question: What have you done recently for your own growth and sanity? And while many of you will probably answer that you attended the TCEA 2020 Convention & Exposition recently, and that is certainly a growth event, you may not have taken the time to really sit and think about all that you learned there after you returned home.

Setting Aside Time

I attended a powerful workshop on leadership last week. While there, I took tons of notes and constantly found myself saying “Oh, that would be great to implement” or “What a fantastic idea! I know that can help our members.” But once I got back to my office, those notes were put aside as I dealt with a myriad of small fires and the needs of my board and staff. What was missing was scheduled time for me to sit, with my office door closed and my technology turned off, and think. I needed time to internalize all that I had learned, to see how the pieces fit together, and to process my next steps. I needed dedicated time to consider how those new ideas could best be used in my particular situation. I needed time to take that new learning and apply it to innovative approaches for the future. I needed time.

Putting Innovation on Your Calendar

Now I know that as overwhelmed, incredibly overworked educators, time is one commodity that we simply don’t have enough of. And I also know that there really are only 24 hours in a day with no way to get more added. But I still believe that setting aside some of that precious time to sit and think is an absolute requirement, regardless of our role or of how busy we are. So I’ve begun scheduling thinking time on my calendar. I’ve let my assistant know that, unless the building is on fire, I am not to be interrupted during those few moments. I shut my door, close out my email and turn off my phone. I pull out the notes from something that I learned recently and some blank paper and a pen and I think about its meaning, its relevance, and how it might fit in with everything else that I do. I doodle and scribble and, as I sit there, ideas begin flowing. My mind seems a little clearer and, by the end of the time I’ve set aside, I am calmer and recharged and ready to move ahead.

It doesn’t seem to matter how short this time is. While I obviously process more given more time, even just 15 minutes seems to make a difference. So I would encourage you, actually beg you, to try setting aside just a little time on your calendar to sit and think. I believe you will see a profound difference in your mental state, in how you approach new problems, and how you grow intellectually. Then drop me a line at lgracey@tcea.org and let me know how this innovation time (or whatever name you give it) is working for you.

Happy thinking!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that one of the best ways to schedule a good block of thinking time is to attend the Elementary Technology Conference. Held June 14-16 in beautiful Galveston, TX, this event provides not just innovative learning experiences, but a fabulous on-the-beach location that is perfect for thinking. Register now and join me as we sit and learn and think together.

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