We need to be risk takers if we want students to be risk takers.

One of the elements of George Couros‘s Innovator’s Mindset is being a risk taker. I would hazard a guess that most teachers aspire for their students to be risk takers. I know that when I was a math teacher I was constantly frustrated that my students just wanted to get the right anwer and were terrified of trying something just to see if it would work.  Before I stopped teaching Math I did my best to address this issue, which led to a fair few blog posts (which have been fun to revist and I can’t resist listing here):

While wrestling with things like how grading impacts mindset, and frameworks to teach problem solving I tried to model risk taking for my students as I solved practice problems and made mistakes etc. It is only now however, as I read Innovate Inside The Box, that I realise my approach was missing authenticity as I was trying to model risk taking from the student perspective. For the kids to take me seriously I should have been modelling risk taking from my teacher perspective.

I think teachers have a much easier time telling students how to be risk takers, than being risk takers themselves. A few quotes from Innovate Inside the Box that resonated with me:

It is easy for teachers to fall into the trap of doing what is easy for them rather than trying to get better for the students.

When we focus on what could go wrong, we lose sight of what we could do right.

Risk means moving from the comfortable average in pursuit of a better unknown.

The ‘Ah Ha’ quote for me however was:

We need to give students opportunities to speak their minds and provide feedback about the impact of our lessons.

Now this is real risk taking for teachers. Asking students for real feedback on lessons, taking the feedback seriously and acting on it. This is taking a risk with something that matters to me as a teacher, my teaching skills and processes. The DESE Model Feedback Instruments & Administration Protocols shared in the book were a real eye opener. These are much more targeted and useful than “3 stars and a wish” type feedback. Here are the first 5 from the mini-form:

You can find and download all these questions from the DESE site. It occured to me that they would make a good Google Form. If this is of interest to anyone I made one up and a copy can be created by clicking this link:

Make a Copy of 6-12 Mini Google Form Version

So, I am commited to asking my students these kinds of questions this year and acting on their feedback. Hopefully by modelling authentic risk taking I can inspire a few more students to try it as well.

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