September 13, 2020
Welcome back to When the Wind Blows...an Epic podcast for parents, teachers, leaders and anyone vested in world of education
How did you get involved in education? What made you bring that to Epic?
Not to be melodramatic, but I felt called into education when I was in the 8th grade. I was immediately discouraged by my aunt, who was a 30 year career teacher. She said I was too much of a non-conformist to be a teacher. I would never make it. Well….she was right. I struggled with following the rules all throughout my career. Interestingly enough, that rebellious, disruptive way of doing things was the reason I was asked to come to Epic.
Why this topic?
- Disrupting Education...give us your definition of what it is.
I know it sounds cliche, but being willing to do what’s best for kids, no matter what or at all costs. So many educators will spout off that they are in for the kids, but they always stop short of doing it because of the fear of not having enough money. I remember when I was a new superintendent, I was spouting off in front of my colleagues that I was not concerned with the next year or having enough money, that I was going to do what was best for kids right now. A superintendent from a small school in Eastern OK stood up in front of everyone, and said Scot Trower, you’re an idiot if you think you’ll ever last as a superintendent with a mindset like that. They all laughed at me, told me I’ll learn the hard way. Well it just pissed me off and I set out to prove them wrong. That year I launched the state's first Apple Macbook Pro 1:1 laptop initiative for every student in my school and ended the year with a record fund balance, the highest carry over in the school's history.
- What are the characteristics/mindsets of a disruptor?
I think the primary characteristic or mindset of a disrupter is someone that doesn’t care what the status quo thinks. Not just the willingness to go against the grain, but one who seeks opportunities to disrupt. I would liken it to someone that is an adrenaline junky. That person that gets their thrills by climbing a mountain freestyle. It's the thrill of it.
A big characteristic of a disruptor that cannot be left out is the willingness to not only think outside the box, but the willingness to blow the box up so you’re never tempted to get back in. Disruption happens when you are doing things that are not the norm.
Another mindset is being willing to get rid of low performing educators. We only have a very short time to impact a students life. If we put up with bad teachers for politics or because they are tenured, we are hurting the child. We have to set the tone and create a culture of an expectation of excellence. Which includes bad teachers gotta go.
Finally, the last thing a disruptive educator has to have is to be willing to fail and regroup, not afraid to try something new. I remember when I first started teaching I was teaching government, specifically the Bill of Rights to a bunch of inner city, alternative school students. I met the students where they were and made the Bill of Rights into a rap. We were clapping our hands and stomping our feet to the beat of the rap. The teacher down the hall filed a complaint on me because I was being too noisy. There was no way kids could learn with that kind of noise and nonsense.
- Why do you think we garner so much hate or descent from the rest of the edu world?
The rest of the edu word can’t compete with us. Whether its budget constraints (which are really priorities), or they just don’t have the intestinal fortitude to make hard decisions because of self preservation. That’s really what it boils down to. Self preservation. If you are going to be a disruptor, you will fight a lot of battles. If you are not willing to die on the battlefield, then you aren’t a disrupter. The key to being a successful disrupter is to learn from those instances where you failed and to go to the next battle better prepared.
The secret sauce is even though I may have died on the battlefield while disrupting the status quo, my students still experienced the victory. They had opportunities provided to them that they would have never gotten if not for the battle that ensued. So even though I had to move on to the next battle (school), the students still won.
The thing about working for Epic is that it is expected for me to be disruptive. The problem is that it’s hard to be more disruptive than Ben Harris or David Chaney. I love that when I bring a disruptive idea to them, they take it and add their own spin, making it even more disruptive.
The Book - Disrupting Class by Clayton Christensen - https://www.amazon.com/Disrupting-Class-Disruptive-Innovation-Change/dp/0071592067
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Tune in next week where we are rethinking how leadership and education can better prepare the next generation for a rapidly evolving world.