When I was a middle school science, technology, and math teacher, I crafted teaching units that taught through the lens of problems and solutions. I gave my students big picture problems and challenged them to show their subject matter learning by creating solutions. For example, during a math unit, my students were challenged to design and build a house for Habitat for Humanity. Through their design and model construction, they demonstrated key math, engineering, and science abilities. They were also required to research the socio-economic reasons for why an organization like Habitat for Humanity exists and how it benefits society. They learned to be empathic and caring innovators.
The purposeful design of the teaching unit described above demonstrates my own values of: investigating the world’s problems with optimism, examining them through empathy, and persevering to develop innovative solutions. I’ve labelled this “innovative optimism.” By optimism, I mean a sense of hope and confidence that we can make the future better. I define empathy as cognitive empathy in which we are able to recognize, understand, and relate to someone else’s emotional state. Lastly, I define persevering as having the grit to keep trying to solve regardless of the outcome.
My resolve to facilitate and guide innovation in the classroom parallels with my work as an entrepreneur and manager. SETs work with various schools and organizations that applies this methodology when observing new problems or challenges. I believe it is a method and strategy applies not only to academic institutions but to any enterprise where leaders must innovate to find solutions to problems.