Rob Levit | May 2014

Teacher 2.0

I am dating myself but I have two really vivid memories of computers and the internet. The first was in middle school sitting at these giant mounted computer keyboards with spools of green and white paper that had small holes running down each side. We sat there coding in the BASIC language and were astonished when a square or triangle would print because of our efforts.

The second memory found me sitting in the New York Public Library and connecting with the internet for the very first time and using Lycos and Netscape. See, I told you I was dating myself!

What’s my point? At the time, these were exciting innovations full of possibility but they were bound to grow and evolve to the needs of the users. So bye bye went BASIC, spooled paper, Netscape and Lycos. Think of the bubble of the 1990’s and how many of those companies have completely vanished. Basically (pun intended), in technology it’s innovate or die. I know, a bit extreme so I will tone it down for teachers. Teachers: Innovate to be great!

Teacher 2.0

Are you growing and  evolving with the changing needs of our students and schools? You don’t want to go the way of other busts do you? Here are 3 Innovation Tips to make help you survive, thrive and become Teacher 2.0:

Realize that students are your customers and clients. I know, sounds crazy but students are literally either buying what you are teaching and how you are teaching it or they aren’t. Your results in the classroom can be measured through test scores but that’s not really the ultimate measure. The ultimate measure is customer loyalty. Do students perform for you? Do they love your class? Do they thirst for more learning? Do they come back and visit you years later and say that you were the best teacher ever? What would make a student say that about your class and teaching? Be specific and write down the answer – why would your students say yours is “the best class ever?” Why wouldn’t they say that?

Differentiate your teaching. How do you get loyal customers? By providing them with things they cannot get anywhere else. Think of Trader Joe’s. They have so many cool foods and at the right price? Have you ever had the lemon sorbet from Trader Joe’s that’s inside an actual lemon? How about those savory Indian simmer sauces? Plus, it’s fun to shop there and the employees are superhip and friendly (no, I did NOT get paid to endorse Trader Joe’s!). So how do you differentiate? Why arts integration of course! The arts put an unbelievably unique stamp on teaching because you get to design lessons that bring out your own personal creativity. Just like Trader Joe’s reflects the philosophy of its founders, so to will your creative touch allow you to differentiate your classroom.

Practice Kaizen. Say what? Kaizen is the Japanese word for continuous improvement. Commit to tracking your results by writing down at least one positive action/occurrence and one needs improvement/work in your journal. each day for a week. What did you find out? Follow your own personal trends and moods as well as those of your class. Once a week, create a Starfish Chart and write down what you want to:

  • Keep doing.
  • Stop doing.
  • Start doing.
  • Do more of.
  • Do Less of.

Starfish Planning Tool

Happy innovating! We all need to . . . unless you prefer the way of Lycos and other busts.

Become a Teacher 2.0.

About the Author

Rob Levit, an acclaimed musician and artist and 2013 Innovator of the Year from the Maryland Daily Record, has created award-winning innovative "Life-Skills Through The Arts" programs for adults with mental illness, the homeless, adults in drug and alcohol recovery, youth in domestic/sexual abuse counseling, foster children, hospital patients, veterans and many more. He is currently Executive Director of Creating Communities and was the first Artist-In-Residence at Hospice of the Chesapeake, where he created and infused healing activities for the well-being of staff, families and patients. Email Rob.