“The Relentless Principal”

If you haven’t seen the video entitled The Tattooed, Skater Principal Making School Fun Again, it’s worth a watch. It was recently featured on Freethink which shares stories of people thinking differently and making a difference.

 

This is the summary that accompanies the video:

Hamish Brewer, a tattooed, skateboarding principal in Northern Virginia isn’t your normal principal. Hamish is a born motivator, constantly calling on his students to “Be Relentless.” The New Zealander with an infectious energy served as principal of Occoquan Elementary, a school serving a large low-income and immigrant community.

His unique leadership approach turned Occoquan from a struggling school with sagging test scores into one of the best schools in the state. Now, he’s in his first year at a new school, tasked with spearheading the same transformation he led at Occoquan. Can he replicate his remarkable success at Fred Lynn Middle School?

Hamish Brewer is exciting to watch. His enthusiasm is contagious. His energy is unparalleled and the vision of change he brings to a school building and culture is inspiring. However, the reality is that every leader is NOT Hamish Brewer. Many principals may not possess his larger than life personality and comfort level in front of an audience on a mic. Some administrators may not have his easy way with the kids or huge sense of humour. Many will certainly not be skilled as on a skateboard or with a spray can of paint, as he is :).  However, although those pieces have undeniably contributed to Hamish Brewer’s success in transforming the schools he leads, this is not what struck me most. What stood out for me was his relentless pursuit to do the best for kids in a quest for his school to be amazing. It was instead his relentless commitment to changing the game, and being an educational disruptor. And it was his relentless focus on changing the narrative of school, away from “archaic educational processes” towards making learning more authentic and relevant. The word relentless is one he uses regularly with students and it is a prominent fixture all over the walls of the school.

The word relentless resonates.

In his book The Innovator’s Mindset, George Couros talks about “relentless restlessness”, a term suggested by Pixar’s Brad Bird as a phenomenon that serves to spread and sustain excellence in an organization. George suggests that it is this “relentless restlessness that will serve our students well and empower educators as learners”. We must be relentless in our pursuit of innovative teaching and learning that improves the lives of our students.

In a blog post summarizing and reflecting on The Innovator’s Mindset, Gerald Fussell a principal from Vancouver Island, focuses further on the idea of “relentless restlessness” with the following statement:

Hamish Brewer’s relentless restlessness shines through in; his passionate devotion to innovation and the learners in his school, his commitment to the constant evolution of student learning, and ultimately his success as a leader. His innovative, creative approach to meeting the diverse needs of his students is to be commended, however it is his relentless vision and commitment which we must emulate.   We look forward to hearing about Part Two  of Hamish Brewer’s adventures as he moves on to Fred Lynn Middle School!

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Press Restart

In thinking about the #IMMOOC blog prompt from last week, Why is innovation in education so crucial today?, George Couros’ blog post Restart vs Repeat, really resonated with me. The post talks about the necessity of separating students from the mistakes they may make, and the importance of believing in them. In it he says the following, “I am a big believer that we are creators of our destiny, but having people believe in you along the way, sure makes the road a lot less bumpy. As many schools around North America are well into the school year, remember that a fresh start can happen daily, or even more frequently, and kids need adults who show they believe in them. We need to sometimes hit the restart button with others instead of the repeat.”

This last statement is good advice not only in working with students but really in all aspects of life and relationships. It also rings true when talking about innovation in schools.

We need to sometimes hit the restart button in schools instead of the repeat.

In today’s dynamic, changing world innovation is crucial. Finding new and better ways to optimally support the world of learning for our students has never been more imperative. Yet, as educators, we often get caught up in the mode of REPEAT. For some tried and true practices, that is, things that really work and are in the best interest of student learning; we should continue to hit REPEAT. But when that isn’t the case and we do things the same old way because it’s just easier, or comfortable, or we don’t know a better way, or merely because that’s the way we’ve always done it, that’s when we need to consider that it’s time for a change. When what we are doing is not best serving the needs of our students, then it’s time to come up with a new and better way of doing things…it’s time to press RESTART.

A RESTART is defined as a new start or beginning and in fact, the action of restarting can be interpreted in many ways and is broad ranging (see below). A restart may not mean changing everything, but it means changing something. Constantly striving to find new and better ways to support our learners is not optional. Innovation is crucial.

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