At Open House the other night, I was reminded of this fantastic blog post by our vice principal, Kristi. As the night was coming to a close, I sat down and had a great conversation with a mom and her daughter. We were talking about exploring some new topics of interest and being open to trying new things. As we were chatting, I mentioned that sometimes it’s important to “get uncomfortable.”
That’s when the topic came up of adult choices. This student spoke about how adults often know what they like, and they don’t always take these chances. (Now please note that I’m paraphrasing here, so I’m sorry if these words aren’t exact.) Her words made me think of one of my experiences, and I shared this experience with her. I said to her (and again, this may not be exact):
I taught Kindergarten-Grade 2 for many years. I loved teaching primary! I was very happy doing this job. But a couple of years ago, I took a chance and tried something new: I moved to Grade 6. I was terrified! I had no idea how to teach this grade. I wasn’t sure that I could do it, and there were some people I knew that had their doubts as well. I had to take a chance though: I had to get uncomfortable, try something new, and convince myself that I would be successful! And you know what? I was successful, and I was very happy that I made this change! If I didn’t move to Grade 6, I probably wouldn’t have moved to Grade 5 this year, and I’m so glad that I made both changes.
I’m not sure if this story convinced her to try something new, but she definitely reacted positively to hearing about my experience. She realized that even adults need to take risks. This discussion made me realize something too: if we want students to be risk takers, we need to model this behaviour as well. How do we show students the benefits of taking chances, “getting uncomfortable,” and experiencing change? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!
Being transparent and honest about our own experiences as learners is so important. More than making teachers more human to their students, it also serves to provide those models of life long learning characteristics that they so need to see, hear, and question. I would probably ask that student why he/ she thought adults don’t take risks and if that really benefitted them. Getting them to consider what is important to them will help them see, I hope, that often the risks are worth it. Thanks for modelling.
Thanks for the comment, Kristi! There were many questions asked and answered that night, but now I can’t remember if this was one of them. What a great one to ask! This student and I have discussed risk taking before though, so if the topic corms up again, I’ll ask this question for sure. Thanks for the help!
I think modelling is definitely the way to go, but also, importantly, having those conversations where we talk about how it wasn’t as easy as it perhaps seemed from the outside. Talking about the challenges of doing something new, and even failures shows them that the risk of trying something new isn’t devastation, but that its ok and even normal. I think both those who rarely succeed and those who often always succeed, need reassurance about it being ok to fail.
Interestingly, I was having a conversation with another mom and she mentioned that she’s been having the same discussions with her daughter. Maybe we’ll get them together and talk about it as a group. I talked to you Aviva to marshal your support, and I’ll take advantage of this one too :))
Thanks for your comment, Lucy! Your idea of discussing this topic with the other mother and her daughter is a great idea. Maybe the students can learn together that it’s okay to try something new regardless of if it leads to success. We learn a lot from our failures as well as our successes, and it’s this learning that’s really important. I actually had the same conversation with my class yesterday when students were assessing themselves on our recent bridge task. Many of the bridges did not hold up against all of the natural disasters, but it was the learning from this activity (and the reflection on what the students would do the next time) that mattered most of all. We all need this chance to struggle (or even fail) and try again! I’m glad that you’re encouraging your daughter to take these risks.