Disruptors: Get Comfortable Being the Lone Wolf

As a teacher what does it mean to be a disruptor?  Does it mean you are the innovator, pioneer or just a thorn in the side of administration because you want to do what is right for students?  I teach a group of students that have been labeled with many different terms: At Risk, Special Needs, Low Achieving Low, and with those labels students come with the attitude: “I can’t do this.”  They have the mindset that “no one expects me to learn or understand, so I will sit here and do what I need to just get by.”

I truly believe through the use of technology we can increase engagement in these students and make learning fun again.  Starting in January, my school will be going 1:1 with each student receiving a MacBook Air.  Over the last couple of years my principal has let me try out and test different applications in the hopes that we would be able to go 1:1.  However, through this process of disruption I sometimes have “disrupted” people that are not really used to being disrupted.  This list included administrators, technology staff, and other teachers. These disruptions included getting our filters opened first for teachers, then slowly lifting the lid for students. Others included moving faster than administrators cared or liked to move.  Finally, I disrupted other teachers by being the first teacher to allow students to use smart phones in my classroom.

Returning to my opening statement: a disruptor is usually the innovator, pioneer and thorn in the side of administration. This means you are going to be the lone wolf on the staff, looked at as a troublemaker, or boat rocker.  I have heard two different ways that schools and districts move. One is “don’t turn the boat to fast because someone might fall off.” Another philosophy put forth by my former principal is that of building an airplane in flight.  As I have become more involved with the educational community on Twitter with other disruptors we all feel like we are the only ones doing the disrupting whether through 1:1, blended, flip teaching, mobile learning.  I am here to say you are not alone and to continue your disruption of the process in your school.

As you continue to disrupt your schools and districts- find others in your town, region, or state you can meet with face to face or online for support, ideas and collaboration.  These fellow disruptors will do wonders for your morale.  Without this support you will feel like an island until others in your building start to come along for the ride. Believe it or not some of your best advertisement or publicity will come from your students.  If you are willing to try new things especially using the technology, applications, and social media they use will win you supporters among them and they’ll talk.  Once they start talking you will get other teachers coming in and asking what you are doing and how you are doing it.  This brings me to another trait of a disruptor that of someone who is willing to share, help and support those looking to make changes in their classroom.  If you support them they will in the end support you as you all move to change the way students learn and we teach.

A disruptor has to be willing to fail.  American dogsled driver and explorer said: “Dream big and dare to fail” when he climbed the Antarctic 10,000 ft peak named for him by Admiral Byrd when he was nearly 89 years old.  As disruptors, we are dreamers and risk takers which means we will fail from time to time. Sometimes we fail in small ways and other times we will have a major failure.  Failure doesn’t mean we stop what we are doing, but we slow down or temporarily stop and reassess what we are doing. The biggest key in failing is not to panic in the face of the failure. Always have a backup plan in case of failure especially if your principal is observing you that day.  This brings up the point of planning and testing.  Make sure you plan well and test everything before you try it out on the students.

Finally, to be a disruptor you need to be:

Not afraid to push into new technologies.

Ready to take criticisms from all directions (including fellow teachers).

Ready to be the lone wolf in your building or even your district.

Ready to build your own PLN via Twitter, Google +, Edmodo, or Facebook.

Be willing to travel to and attend conferences.

Move forward without fear of failure.

Ready to experience failure more than once.

Most of all disrupt your students, teachers, school and district.

Image Credit: Stuck in Customs on Flickr


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