3 Ways to Empower Teachers and Transform Classrooms

Unlock creativity when teachers become learners.

June 13, 2016
Fanny Passeport
Technology coordinator

CATEGORIES In the Classroom, Professional Development

Often, teachers assume that some educators are more creative than others. The truth is that creativity is a skill and, like author Sir Ken Robinson says, “You can't just give someone a creativity injection. You have to create an environment for curiosity and a way to encourage people and get the best out of them." No doubt most educators aspire to innovate, but they do not necessarily make radical changes in their classrooms. Why? 

From my field experience, I've noticed that many teachers find it difficult to teach creativity and engage students in becoming the agents of their own learning, largely because they aren't experiencing it themselves. Following Daniel Pink's attributes of autonomy, mastery, and purpose, we know that real change happens when motivation is intrinsic. Therefore, it's essential that the classroom practices we expect from teachers are the ones school leaders practice in the various professional development meetings, "Tech Cafes," email communications, webinars, and social media.

Teachers should immerse themselves in rediscovering the magic of learning.

Great teaching starts with exploration.

To empower students, teachers should first empower themselves. An amazing school vision might be in place, but the practical implications are not always visible and implemented by teachers. Worse still, the vision may be understood and put into practice, but staff innovators stay in the dark and don't share their success with others. 

One essential element needed to empower teachers is to shift focus from teaching to learning -- teachers should immerse themselves in rediscovering the magic of learning, the necessity of making mistakes, and encouraging resiliency by constantly challenging their learning experiences. For example, technology is a relevant subject in this context because many teachers are uncomfortable using technology and are afraid to take risks, thinking they might break something. Learning about technology through technology helps teachers step out of their comfort zones and feel a sense of achievement through each successful step and, even better, through their success in troubleshooting obstacles and showcasing their work. 

Unlock creativity with collaboration.

Teachers should remember that being creative is not about being talented -- it's about unlocking the skills that have been dormant or are as yet undiscovered. New learning experiences are a great way to either rediscover or awaken those skills. When we share our learning experiences and skills, teachers encourage classroom innovation, break down classroom borders, and facilitate meaningful collaboration.

One way to encourage collaboration and innovation is to create innovation plans. An innovation plan answers the question, "How might we … ?" Working together, teachers identify and answer this question during a collaborative workshop, which becomes their pedagogical goal. The innovation plan is meant not only to engage teachers in pedagogy and encourage use of digital media, but it also serves as a model that empowers teachers to set personal goals. 

New learning experiences are a great way to either rediscover or awaken creativity.

Implement new ideas while focusing on reflection. 

The results of teachers as learners are clear: When teachers stop thinking and start doing, student learning increases. After working on innovation plans or simply collaborating with peers, ensure these new ideas and skills are implemented into the classroom! Skillful teachers allow students to take the lead, facilitate student growth, and promote critical thinking. Skillful teachers also collaborate, encourage creativity, and give feedback to peers. Finally, they "prepare" less and "postpare" more -- self-reflection and evaluating feedback helps them to better understand what to improve and how. 

So teachers, stop thinking and start doing! In the words of The Lego Movie, "You are the most talented, most interesting, and most extraordinary person in the universe. And you are capable of amazing things. Because you are the Special."