(Spoken remarks to the student body this morning)
Creative, Inventive, Ingenious, Original: All four are thesaurus-provided synonyms for “innovative”, and these four are the words I shared with our students today to help illuminate the significant goals to which we aspire when we now say we are “creating leaders and innovators”.
Happy New Year. It is a time for replacing the calendar, and entering into the next chapter of history, and here at St. Gregory, as I know you have seen, we have made a change in our motto for the school to what is now “Creating Leaders and Innovators” … and I know the change may be a bit jarring.
Character Scholarship Leadership, our former school motto and slogan, is certainly a wonderful expression of our school’s great traditions and foundational qualities. Our school mission is unchanged—as always, we are here to challenge students to pursue excellence in character, in scholarship, and in leadership.
I want you to know that though I may not talk very frequently about character and scholarship, I am working behind the scenes to strengthen them further as the core components of a St. Gregory education. For character, I have worked with the Academic committee to ensure we are reporting to you and your parents in the “Egg” (Essential Goals for Gregorians) how well we think you, our students, are growing in the Essential Goal of integrity, compassion, and ethical decision making. I am also working hard to develop for next year a new advisory program: a structured way for you and an advisor-teacher to work together to support your growth in character. In both ways, I am working to make character growth not less but more important than ever here at St. Gregory.
As for scholarship, I want you to know that I am equally committed as any Head of School in this school’s history to ensuring your education is deeply grounded in true and serious scholarship. Our mission defines scholarship as being grounded in intellectual curiosity, independent thought, and effective communication—all three of which are included in the new “Egg, ” by which we are ensuring they are treated more seriously than ever. These same things:– curiosity, independent thought, and effective communications — are also some of the MAIN skills and qualities of mind measured in a new test called the CWRA, which I have brought to St. Gregory students (freshman, remember this? Seniors, it is coming), and this test I think will greatly help us ensure we are teaching you these higher order thinking skills of scholarship better than ever. You should feel assured that I am here to advance scholarship in many very serious ways.
As for leadership, that word is of course still in the new motto, and so you have no need to fear it is being overlooked. Leadership has always been important to me, hugely, ever since I began watching Star Trek
as a third grader and became completely obsessed with Captain Kirk. To be successful in this new century, and in this fast changing world, you will have to have the skills captured in the concept of leadership, the skills and habits of initiative, confidence, of facilitating collaboration and working well with others, with powerful communication skills, and we are, more than ever, committed to helping you grow in these.
Although our mission is not changed, our motto has— but why, you may ask. Although our former motto remains our mission, our new motto and slogan is intended to be an exciting and energetic expression of what we are doing , actively and vigorously, as a school to provide you a bright, fulfilling, and meaningful future.
Creating Leaders and Innovators….. Let’s talk about what it means to be innovative for a minute, but first I want to underscore for you that by my reading and research, the authors and analysts who have looked hardest at the skills and competencies which will be most important for success in this fast-changing world have all agreed that creativity and innovation is not just one of these important core competencies, but the SINGLE most important one. Experts widely agree on this first of all priorities for innovation,
from Thomas Friedman in his New York Times column to the European Community’s statement on preparing for the future and onto the authors of the recent book 21st century skills, who write that “Many believe that our current Knowledge Age is quickly giving way to an Innovation Age, where the ability to solve problems in new ways, to invent new technologies, or create the next killer app, or even to discover new branches of knowledge and invent entirely new industries will all be highly prized.”
But what does it mean to be innovative?
I want to chart out four meanings of the word innovative, all of which I found in thesaurus.com as definitions or synonyms: Creative, Innovative, Ingenious, and Original.
The first one is very simple: Innovative is a synonym for Creative. Indeed, many of the books and articles about 21st century skills just lump them right together: creativity and innovation. When you are doing creative writing, and anytime you are being creative in your writing or in your arts classes, you are being
innovative. By our new motto, I am telling you it is more important than ever to help you become creative as a thinker and an artist.
The second meaning of the word, and don’t get me wrong, these four are all closely related to each other, but the second meaning I offer to you, is inventive. This should be easy to recognize and remember: inventive and innovative look and sound alike. Inventive sounds more like a word from science than from arts, and that is exactly right, and why this is such an important second meaning—innovation as invention happens in the science labs, in your robotics teams, in your computer programming, and by committing ourselves to creating innovators, I mean we are more committed than ever before to your science education, and your growth in computer and robotics skills.
Now a third word for innovative is ingenious, which is what you are being anytime you work alone or (even better) on a team to try to solve a problem, a complex problem, or better even a real world problem, and you try to solve it in ways better than any previous solution. Often I think there is nothing whatsoever
more important for us as educators than facilitating your growth of ingenuity, of skilled problem-solving, because there are so many deep and troubling problems in our world, problems which I hope you will go out and solve.
The fourth and final alternate meaning I want to provide to you for what I mean when I talk about being
innovative is also drawn from the thesaurus; to be innovative is to be original. I love this meaning, and I would draw it out to say that it means to be an original thinker, to be an independent thinker, to not follow the crowd, to think for yourself. I know you know this—a huge problem in our modern society is that people do not think for themselves, they do not think critically about what they see and hear, they just go along with what they see and hear other people do and say. That is not what a St. Gregory education; we are here to support your growth to be original and independent thinkers.
So to reiterate: to be innovative is to be creative, to be inventive, to be an ingenious problem-solver, and to be an original, independent thinker. Creative, inventive, ingenious, original.
I am deeply committed, as I said before, to making our school’s commitment to your growth in character, scholarship, and leadership stronger than ever, but I am also very excited, and very eager, to support your growth in becoming ever more creative, inventive, ingenious, and original: in other words, helping you both to become leaders and innovators.