We Imageall know Peter Parker’s secret to becoming a totally cool super hero who used smarts, spidey sense, and a little bit of webbing to save his corner of the world: a radioactive spider bite.

The funny thing is, what our students need from education isn’t so different from the transformation Peter went through (n.b. the first transformation, not Spiderman 3 – I haven’t seen that one yet, but looks like what happened wasn’t good).  We want school to hone our students’ talents and develop their passions so they can make the world a better place.

We also know that what we have been doing in education isn’t turning out superheroes they way we would like.  The kids who become innovators and change the world are the exception not the rule.  They are kids who beat the system and managed to salvage their creativity and passion from our industrial model of schooling.

So how do we create this change?  How do we have an education system that actually develops creative innovators committed to a more just, sustainable, and healthy world?

We know we can’t just keep doing what we are doing and expect different results.


And we can’t just wait around for a radioactive spider.

I used to think what we needed was just more.  If we only made the school day longer, made kids go to school on Saturday, the list goes on and on, we’d get there.  I would say to myself “If only we had more time with students we could reach that goal” or “If only we get a little better at what we’re doing we’ll get there.”

Now I see that more of the same though isn’t really change; it’s just more.

I used to think that the answer was finding someone with the answer and asking for concrete steps and strategies.  At the end of trainings, I would ask  “How do I do this in my classroom?” and wait for a formula that would be the saving grace for my students and me.

Now I see that there’s no single strategy, no step-by-step process for creating innovators.  Spending more time and doing what we do now better won’t get us to the superhero level.


So what’s an educator to do? We believe that we can achieve the results we envision, cultivate fair-minded, collaborative, passionate innovators, by focusing on a few key principles.  The first one, the foundation for all the rest, is becoming innovators ourselves by continuing to learn and challenging the status quo.  That’s stage 1 of our 5 stage framework: Be the change you wish to see. One of the best ways to do that – to open up to learning – is to try something new, to take a risk.

Now one quick caveat:  Taking a risk doesn’t mean just doing anything.  I’m pretty positive that if you show up on Tuesday in hula skirt your kids aren’t going to suddenly figure out how to end global warming.



ImageSo take a risk that you think might engage students’ passions, creativity or critical thinking but is a little scary for us adults.

In fact we would like to propose that this week (March 11-15) is International Take a Risk in Education Week (ITAREW – pronounced ita-ru for short). Image

If you need some help getting started, a good first step is to ask your students what they think about your class and use their responses to figure out your risk.

Download a good survey here.

So take a risk and let us know how it went.  What did you do?  What effect did it have?  Would you do it again?

We can’t wait to hear about it.