Everyone is a designer. Get over it.
Daniel Burka

While reading this I started to translate it into what I used to do as a teacher. Teachers and coaches design lessons and practices. This may not fit the common concept of “design,” but I think it’s what we do.

When I was teaching, I was aware of secretaries, lunch workers and all other “support staff” and how what they did was important to what I could do. They could save me time or cost me time. Time saved was time that could be used to design better lessons. I could get ideas about how to design lessons by watching how they did some aspects of their jobs and by talking to them. Many of these workers had other life experiences that could provide example to help me work more efficiently, and some of their experiences were useful to me in generating ways to teach physics concepts. Design ideas can come from anyone. One person can plant a seed that others nurture until it becomes the product.

Maintenance workers were particularly important to me, and I learned that they could get excited if I talked to them about how things they did could help my teaching. Often they got so involved that they were like teaching assistants. They might improve lighting in the class or lab. They might rearrange the physical space to make lessons that were difficult to carry out a lot easier. They even provided equipment ideas for labs and demonstrations! When teachers or administrators told maintenance workers what to do, the workers seldom got excited. When teachers asked the same workers for advice, they did get excited, did better work more quickly and often chipped in good ideas of their own.

While I hadn’t thought of what I did as design before reading this article, I did think of each of my classes as an interconnected ecosystem that my students and I made work together. Working with the school’s support staff simply makes for a more extensive ecosystem.

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