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George Couros is an “Innovative Teaching, Learning, and Leadership Consultant”, speaker, as well as the author of “The Innovator’s Mindset” and “Innovate Inside the Box.” Formerly, he was the Division Principal of Innovative Teaching and Learning with Parkland School Division, located in Stony Plain, Alberta, Canada, and has over 20 years of experience as an educator, in a myriad of roles from K-12.
I am originally from the small town of Humboldt, Saskatchewan and my parents are originally immigrants from Greece. I am the youngest of four, and my brother, Dr. Alec Couros, is also in the field of education. We work closely together through our social networks to help build environments that best meet the needs of students in a continuously changing environment. I believe in the power of students, and that all of the children we can teach can be leaders if we help them find their passion. My parents came from a country that was going through a war and did not have the resources or the same opportunities that we had for education. They stressed the importance of education for their kids, and are my inspiration in my career as an educator and learner. Although my parents were born in a different time than I was, we have the exact same goal in our lives; we want it better for our kids than it was for us.
I was lucky enough to marry my best friend (Paige Couros), who is an elementary school teacher (and the best mom in the world!) who always keeps me grounded and reminds me how complex a teacher’s job is. We welcomed our beautiful daughter Kallea into the world in August of 2016 I believe that we must continuously “sharpen the saw” by taking part in other pursuits. I love being active by running, participating and watching sports and am a HUGE fan of the Los Angeles Lakers. In fact, I have two dogs now that are named after a current and former Laker (Odom and Cooper).
Your journey as an educator
I was teaching for several years. I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher and thought the interview for my first job went well. During the interview, they kept asking about a website I created called “Electronic Media Communication Officer.” They called me right after and told me they loved the interview but we decided to go with someone else. Later, I phoned the superintendent and asked if I could get some feedback from the interview since I was new to the profession.
Surprisingly, they were going to call me that day because they just had a high school technology teacher position open up. I had no interest in high school or teaching technology. My supervising teacher told me it was hard to get a job. Take the job but make sure you do very well. So I took this HS technology job not knowing what I was doing. I knew some stuff but, if I didn’t, I asked the students. I learned a ton from the students. It really shifted my perspective on education. The teacher is not the sole source of information. How do I create an environment where I actually learn from students as well so we become smarter as a whole? Teaching that one technology class had me think different even when I taught in every level. It shifted my thoughts about teaching when I was an administrator and even today.
I was the funniest person to grade 2 children probably because I was tall.
CUE 2017 Keynote
When did you go into administration?
I became this tech guy and that was always a focus. So I applied for a Tech Coordinator job and I didn’t get it. Then an assistant principal job came up. I applied, got an interview with Archie, the principal, and we were arguing. I told my principal that that was the worst interview I ever had and I got the job. The first interview I thought was so good and I didn’t get the job. This was one of the moments that really shift you. He said to me that I was the only person that challenged him on some of the stuff he was saying. He said he wasn’t looking for someone who agreed with him on everything, but someone who will make sure I will do what’s right for the school and won’t push back on ideas.
When I became a principal, the person I hired was Cheryl, a teacher where I was assistant principal. On our first day we got into an argument that felt contentious. We had a lot of the same values but you never know if people are there for the same reasons. But, we got to know her and she would push back for the right reasons and challenge me. She’s amazing and then became a principal. The thinking for me is that I don’t need someone who thinks like me. I already have that. I need someone who thinks different who may appeal to others in the building that I do not appeal to. Certain experiences have really shifted what I do. Relationships matter. What I think is this the type of experience I would want for my daughter?
The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity
My first book was focused on big-picture thinking on innovation education for K-12 administrators.
From the introduction:
Change can be hard and sometimes seemingly insurmountable, but remember, change is an opportunity to do something amazing. If we embrace this mindset and become the innovators our kids need (and need to be), the opportunities in front of us are endless.
In a place where every learner is encouraged to reach
his or her dreams, these “what ifs” can become reality.
Three What Ifs from page 117:
- What if we believed that everything that we had to make great schools was already within our organization, and we just needed to develop and share it?
- What if we promoted “risk-taking” to our staff and students modeled it openly as administrators?
- What if people were always our first focus, as opposed to “stuff?”
Graphic by Sylvia Duckworth (https://sylviaduckworth.com )
Innovate Inside the Box: Empowering Learners Through UDL and The Innovator’s Mindset
Katie Novak started bugging me to write a second book. The framework and the process it made me think of a review I received for my first book mentioning that it was not a practical guide. This new book is geared toward teachers. I had the big picture thinking but I really don’t talk about teaching anymore. I talk about learning. The reason is that I don’t teach in a K-12 classroom but I learn all the time and that’s where my focus is. Katie Novak is involved in K-12 education. So we decided that I would give the why of the big picture and then Katie would give some strategies.
The first part is about the core of innovative teaching and learning. The second part is about each of the 8 characteristics of the innovator mindset and shares why they are important. Katie then gives concrete examples of what you can do in your classroom from a UDL perspective.
Pushing the limits in education is possible. The way that you can show it’s possible is to show students and kids who are actually doing stuff. So in every chapter under Part 2 explicitly, I would use a young adult showing the importance of empathy and being a problem finder. One of my favorites was Natalie Hampton who struggled with what happening in the cafeterias. At 15, Natalie developed the “Sit with Us” app that identified a table that was safe and super welcoming to sit at so you didn’t have to have that awkward feeling of being turned away as a kid.
I wanted to share these examples so teachers could have discussions with their kids about someone their age did this stuff. This example of the Sit with Us app demonstrates that developing empathy creates a better experience in and out of school. We made it intentional to include examples like this one in every chapter.
[This is Barbara: there’s more. Enjoy the podcast. George shares about Digital Leadership, stories about young adults’ projects that give back to the community, and more about what we wish we could have done when we were young. Make sure you get a copy of this new book and go to https://innovateinsidethebox.com to access the links, resources, and everything in one place. Also, make sure you subscribe to his website, https://georgecouros.ca then you will receive regular emails that will push your thinking.]
George Couros is currently an “Innovative Teaching, Learning, and Leadership Consultant”, speaker, as well as the author of “The Innovator’s Mindset” and “Innovate Inside the Box.” Formerly, he was the Division Principal of Innovative Teaching and Learning with Parkland School Division, located in Stony Plain, Alberta, Canada, and has over 20 years of experience as an educator, in a myriad of roles from K-12. George is passionate about distributed leadership within his division, and believes that creating a collaborative environment with all stakeholders, will help to ensure that we meet the best needs of all children.
- Website: https://georgecouros.ca
- Twitter: @gcouros #InnovatorsMindset #innovateInsideTheBox
- Innovate Inside the Box
- The Innovator’s Mindset
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gcouros/
“When you have a compelling reason, you can learn anything.”
Interested in checking out more of the Rethinking Learning podcasts and reflections, click on the podcast tab at the top, the logo below, or go to https://barbarabray.net/podcasts/
For more information about Barbara’s new book, Define Your WHY, go to this page or click on the image of the book for resources, questions, and links.