Waves of Gratitude

What would you do if you were asked to nurture a shared culture of innovation within the Halton District School Board?  Where would you start? Where would the journey take you?

There are many challenges in this role.  How do you go about “being innovative” and create spaces and ways for teachers to “share more”?  It would be great to visit schools and classrooms more frequently as there are literally hundreds of amazing educators in our board doing hundreds of amazing things to innovate our classrooms.  We are trying our best to capture a shared culture through this blog, personal Twitter feeds, and The Innovation Gnome.  YET, there are hundreds of ‘on the ground’ stories left to be told by you.
There have been many people who have helped along the way --  providing the framework to define “Innovation”, and inviting us into classrooms to chat or watch awesome learning unfold.  This support has been invaluable. How do you go about thanking so many people for such great thinking?

Here lies the idea of Challenge Coins.  We were intrigued with the private act of gratitude using a Challenge Coin since we listened to a podcast about them several years ago.  If you aren’t familiar with what a Challenge Coin is, we can give you a bit of history.  

Challenge Coins started as a military tradition, during the First World War.  They were meant as a symbol of pride, teamwork and unity. Soldiers who were separated from their units could flash their unit coins as proof they were who they said they were.  The act of carrying these Challenge Coins gave soldiers a renewed sense of belonging as well as gratitude for the teamwork and camaraderie found on the front lines. Military Challenge Coins help to keep the network of support that so often accompanies - and really, defines - the military lifestyle alive, even after a return from deployment.


As time went by, the Challenge Coin itself morphed into a new tradition.  They became a way for brothers and sisters in arms to thank each other for a special achievement.  The ultimate token of thanks would be to pass your Challenge Coin off privately to someone else whose service and achievement could never truly be thanked in a public forum.  Today, the tradition of the Challenge Coin has spread to many other areas -- Educational Institutions, First Responders, Disney World, and so on. Many groups have developed their unique Challenge Coin as a token of gratitude.  To quote the podcast, “they have become physical proof of a hard fought relationship”.


What does this mean for Halton? There are many educators in the Halton District School Board staff who need to be thanked for making school different and at the same time helping others shift their mindsets about education.  This can been accomplished with a low-key, private expression of gratitude through the sharing of a meaningful token of thanks, as educators support each other on this journey. There is much value in knowing that someone took the time to acknowledge effort and express gratitude for the contributions made. There is also empowerment, providing people with the opportunity to “pay it forward” and pass their expression of appreciation along.  It’s not a secret token, rather a private gesture of sincere thanks.

Part of the joy in that kind of moment is knowing that others can also have that same opportunity.  Thanking someone for their contribution to your growth as an educator is an extremely valuable event.  Don’t be surprised if one day, someone you’ve worked closely with quietly hands a Shift Coin to you. Enjoy that moment, because you’ll be asked to pay it forward too for someone else.   Most importantly, if you haven’t seen a Shift Coin in the wild don’t worry, that just means it hasn’t got to you...YET.