I'll be there for you...

First of all, I’d like to say thank you to Paul for inviting me to contribute to his blog. I’ve found that his posts relating to the Innovator Academy ring very true and are a fair and honest reflection of what was a wonderful experience. My name is Dave Leonard and I am a fellow #LON19 graduate as well as being the IT Manager for Matthew Moss High School in Rochdale. Paul, myself and Abid (from whom I’m sure you’ll read more on this blog in the future) shared the dubious honour of being the only members of our cohort that weren’t practising teachers, something that originally concerned me as I thought that we may be seen as outsiders but which ultimately led to a great opportunity to help a new group of friends through our slightly different skill sets.

It is the friendships that we formed that I want to focus on in this post. The majority of us attended the academy knowing one or two people who were lucky enough to be selected but left with 35 new friends (and that’s not including the wonderful coaches and staff who made the event possible). The friendships were forged initially in the group chat that started months ahead of the academy, a chat that was informative, amusing and prolific. My wife, in a nod to The Inbetweeners, christened them my “Google Friends” long before most of us had even met. They were developed in our teams of six innovators, with whom we would work closely in applying the concepts of Design Thinking to the issues that we brought with us, but subsequently they were cemented through various mixer activities, chats at mealtimes and the occasional (OK every night, until the wee small hours of the morning) visit to the pub.

Our friendships, as in all areas of life were stronger with some innovators than others, but I’d
happily be there for any of the cohort and suspect that they’d do the same for me if we needed help with our projects or with any aspect of our professional lives. This is born from a culture of having experienced the Innovator Academy together, but more than that, from having been selected in the first place for our passion, our skills and our Googley-ness. We were all different, but we shared a common vision and desire to improve education.

The academy has helped us all to appreciate the benefits of the skills that those around us possess, to understand that failure is just a step on the road to success and should be celebrated and that individually we have talents, but together we are great. All of these traits will need to be called upon at various times if we are to see our projects succeed.

The projects that this cohort is working on have the power to be genuinely transformational. From websites to board games; conferences to AI assistants, all of them are innovative, exciting and original. I look forward to seeing the directions that they take over the next 11 months before they are launched, and cannot wait to celebrate the successes of my new friends. As Kate Cheal, one of the academy coaches said in her brilliant spark session, “Oh the places we will go”.

So if you are interested in what everyone who attended describes as the best CPD experience of their careers, want to change the world of education or just want to make a bunch of new friends then I strongly recommend that you think about becoming a Google Certified Innovator. The experience is genuinely life-changing and you may even end up writing a post on this blog as a result of it. I look forward to reading about it, friend.

(Addendum by Paul: The next Innovator Academy is in Sweden and the closing date for applications is September 6th. You can get more information here)

You can find Dave on Twitter (@itbadger) when he's not chatting to his friends.


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