If innovation was easy, everyone would do it.
The reality is that I have never known innovation to be anywhere near easy. I have seen innovation bring great educators that I respect to the point of breakdown. I have seen tears spilled, hands wrung, tempers flared, and anxiety overwhelm teachers, coaches, and administrators alike. No one is immune to the emotions and pressures of innovation from top to bottom. Changing years (decades even) of direction and momentum is not a task to be taken lightly. Innovation is hard.
It reminds me of one of my favorite movie scenes. I am a huge baseball fan. I have loved baseball as long as I can remember. I grew up on the baseball diamond as a kid and I never felt more in control than on the pitching mound. I still get a little teary-eared at the sight of a fresh mowed baseball diamond. In the movie A League of Their Own, Tom Hanks plays Jimmy Dugan a drunk, washed up baseball player turned manager of an all girls baseball team during the War. As he struggles through the changes of his reality–from baseball star to suspended alcoholic to bitter manager of a girls team–Jimmy wakes up to realize that his team is actually pretty good, perhaps even the best team in the league. In a classic scene, after one of his players “Dottie” (played by Gina Davis) quit the league after facing adversity on and off the field, Jimmy confronts Dottie. Dottie tells Jimmy, “It just got too hard.” To which Jimmy replies, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”
That scene, that interaction, has stuck with me since a was a young kid. The truth of it has never escaped me. Doing great things is hard. If the path before you is not stretching you, then that path is too easy. That path is not the one that will leave a legacy or see education changed. Words like “easy”, “simple”, and “fast” are almost antithetical to the idea of innovation. Doing something that is both “new” AND “better” requires us to do the hard things and make the hard choices.
If you, like me, have set out to change education, then when you have two paths you MUST choose the harder one. Choose the one that forces you to grow, to learn, to innovate because otherwise you would fail. If you can do it by yourself and with your own strength, then I would challenge you that what you are doing is not big enough, not grand enough! You can and should do more.
Those educators who I have seen breakdown–I do not judge them or fault them–I actually smile inside because it means that we are in the right place. Those high-emotion moments only come at the intersection of where the need is the greatest and educators are highly committed. Those tears, that hand wringing, that outburst–those are the signs of doing great work. Because great work is hard and in those moments we must remember it will always be hard. And as we remember that we are doing great work, we must always point back to why we are doing it in the first place. We must remember that it is for our students that we toil and strive. It is for their future, our future, that we pick ourselves back up and work long hours. Because the students in our schools deserve our very best–and that best is hard. Great work is hard.
Innovation is hard.
But it’s worth it!