Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The loneliness of innovation or Educational Missionaries

This is probably the worst way to start a blog, but I'm going to quote myself. I'm sorry. This comes from a post about innovative mindsets:

They continually change while the people around them may not. This creates a disconnect from those in your sphere of contact who are either growing at a slower rate or fossilizing. The space that is created by the variation of movement can lend itself to feelings of misunderstanding to incongruity. The thought, "I'm thinking differently than others. What do I do?"

Okay, fast forward to today. #satchat has started a Voxer group. One of the "satchatters" was talking about how he was trying to do this, that, and the other thing to get his district to move forward and adopt new thinking. He ran into brick wall after brick wall. He realized that he was growing at a much faster rather than others around him.

Earlier this year I used this high tech graphic to explain the idea.

Yes, that is a picture I drew on my whiteboard. However, it speaks to the distance that is created by being more innovative than those around you. You become different. 

@khurdhorst chimed and said, "Yeah, you are like a missionary."

An educational missionary.

Now, we all know that the best way to convince others to change is to tell them how what they are doing is wrong and will never work. Oh, wait.

A missionary doesn't go into a community and stand on a box screaming, "The end is near!" They go into a community to be apart of the community. We innovators are the same way. We don't tell people why they are wrong. We stand as examples of what could be. 

We help.
We aren't stingy; we give. 
We offer new ideas at the exact rate as the community is willing to accept them, and then stand next to the people as they make their new learning personal. 

At first innovators can feel very lonely. It's the cost of changing at a faster rate than those around us. However, thinking of the educational missionary, they can cause change in those around them by standing as a example of what could be and facilitating change incrementally. 

Post log:

The usage of Voxer as a means of professional development is a very new concept. If you are interested in joining or learning more about #satchat #voxer group, please let me know.

Your thoughts are encouraged and welcome,

Dane Barner


  1. I would like more info. I need to hang around with innovators for a little bit to get me out of a general feeling of isolation I've been feeling lately. Some practical tips could be useful. So glad I read this post...

    1. Here is how I have come to understand it. Well, this is how it happened for me.

      Two years ago I started out in my PLN adventure. I started to surround myself digitally with innovators and began to grow. However, as I was innovating I was creating space between me and those who weren't innovating as fast as I was. I was creating a space for the loneliness to happen. I started to think that I was either really smart or was just going crazy.

      So, my first step was to solidify a relationship with innovators in my PLN. I found the four or five key innovators and reached out to them. I emailed them, used Google Hangout, exchanged phone numbers, etc...

      Second, I found people in my local PLN who I saw as collaborators in our quest to innovate in our school. This was a smaller number. Maybe three. These were people who I could open up to when I thought maybe I wasn't innovating, I was just crazy. These people helped me dream and kept me grounded.

      Lastly, I became the missionary. I quit griping because people would not get on board with technology integration. I quit getting mad because people insisted that 12 pages of worksheets are the best way to learn. I started walking into classrooms and asking how I could help. I started going to team level meetings and asking what they were doing. I listened and then offered any ideas I had. Moreover, I made sure to point out things I thought they were doing well.

      Remember, I'm a music teacher. I couldn't do that without trust from my teachers and permission/blessing from my administration. Be prepared for failure. Be prepared to reach out for help. I will help you in anyway I can. Thank you for the comment.

  2. I loved the way you described how being an innovative teacher is like being a missionary. Building relationships, serving & helping others, and being available to listen/assist when they are ready to learn is a great way to go about it!