June 17, 2012

Worth the Risk?

Photo by venspired.com
Today I had the chance to catch up with an old friend and former colleague.  In our brief chat, I learned how he was following his passion to start a new venture as an educational consultant and coaching high school football.  Tone can be tricky to read in a chat, but with the smiley faces and exclamation marks, it was easy to read the spark and joy behind these decisions.  He joyfully took a risk to leave the classroom and start out on a new journey.

Taking risks - big life-changing, jumping-off-a-cliff type risks - is exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time.  I know this from first hand experience.   Recently, I made the choice to leave the comfort of my 3rd grade classroom and become an elementary STEM teacher and coach.  At present, I don't know which school I will be at or the specifics of exactly what my role entails as this is a brand new position, but opportunity knocked and called and tweeted and... well, I couldn't do anything other than answer.  Exhilarating and terrifying!  

This jumping-off-a-cliff risk is a career defining moment for me.  I chose to try something new where I can focus my passions and enthusiasm and I can guarantee that my teaching and learning will never be the same because of this risk.  

The first weeks of school I always talk with my students about taking risks in the classroom.  Risk is unnerving, it's anything but comfortable, and the potential for failure is looming.  Fail?  Terrifying!  So what, go ahead and fail.  Failure is a part of life, you will fail at something sometime.  There is always a lesson to be learned in mistakes and failing, even if it's learning how to accept failure graciously.  But what if you take the risk and succeed?  Exhilarating!  

In my situation, the goal of being able to focus my passion and enthusiasm is well worth the risk of leaving my 3rd grade classroom.  It's important, necessary, to create a safe classroom environment which supports students taking goal-oriented risks and learning to grow from their successes and failures.  Blogging is one way my students took risks this year as they put their thoughts out into the world, transparently sharing their writing and finding their voices.  Comments and feedback, or lack thereof at times, have been teaching tools in the risk-taking of young blog authors.  Through the collective experience of blogging and commenting as individuals and part of a class, my students were able to take different risks with their blog posts, some more serious, some more often, some still lurking.  I believe that as these students become young adults and find their passions in life, they will be all the more prepared to follow these passions, having had supportive experiences in taking risks.

How do you follow and sustain your passion?  How do you encourage students to take risks in the classroom?  

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