You have the power to make a phenomenal impact in the lives of children.
Our profession is all about kids. They're our future, and it's an enormous responsibility because our interactions will either inspire or discourage.
A lot of conversations have been had around risk taking and failing forward in education. While these words are tossed around and contemplated, each person has a different image of what this actually looks like.
Developed progressively, every year my vision has shifted and evolved with each diverse and unique team of students I've had the privilege to work alongside. I've gained a deeper understanding of why culture is critical and how to harmoniously refine the development within each new team. In a community where culture is authentic and strong, students flourish and truly begin to seek risk taking, rather than simply being "open" to it.
A considerable amount of time needs to be devoted to cultivating relationships with individual students in order to assist in developing their ability to take risks. And this means daily, as it's an ongoing pursuit. Sit beside the child, allow them to guide the conversation, seek information about who they are and what their passions and dreams consist of. When we demonstrate that we genuinely care, students connect with us. When we connect by sharing our commonalities and continue to ask about their individual interests, students know we're invested and truly care about their best interest.
Our students need to feel a safety net around them from us as well as their peers. Peer acceptance is a piece of their sense of belonging. Tailoring experiences where students develop empathy for their peers is essential. If we truly want students to develop the ability to take risks, they need to feel their basic needs are met and that others have their back. Making the assumption that students come to school and feel safe, or that they belong, is risky. We need to be intentional about how we craft our classroom culture by providing opportunities to build trust between students and teachers, as well as students and students. Teachers gauge the level of trust within the room by observing, taking the temperature of the climate, and continuing to learn the idiosyncrasies of each individual student. In looking at Maslow's Heirachy of needs, we see that if we want students to become risk takers, it's pertinent that all of their basic needs are met.
This past year I continually repeated "mistakes are proof that you are trying" as students collaborated on relevant and complex problem solving. I hung this poster on the wall to be visible to all students. By midyear all I had to say, "mistakes..." and the students would complete my sentence. Rather than scolding them for giggling when I made a mistake, students grasped the fact that I too will make mistakes and they'd say, "It's okay Mrs. Bostwick, it's proof you're trying!" It was liberating for them to identify that their coach is not the beholder of all knowledge, but rather the individual that was there to facilitate, guide, and encourage.
Life is filled with adversity. How we choose to handle it is embedded in our mindset. Fortunately mindset is malleable, and I believe every teacher has the ability to empower students to learn to fail forward, seek risks, and pursue their passions. Setbacks are part of growth, and we need to provide experiences within a supportive environment to stimulate this understanding in order for students to develop flexibility in thinking. Cultivating and nurturing the culture of a classroom provides the fertile environment for students to thrive and seek risk taking which leads to innovative problem solving and creations.
Repeated failures can lead to success when students are inspired to aspire toward their goal. The key is to foster their ability to identify their passions in an environment that richly supports risk taking through supportive and trusting relationships.
This summer my 10 year old son, Julian, who has always been a tinkerer and maker, was further inspired by the idea of makerspace as it's been a hot topic in our house. Energized, he worked tenaciously to develop an obstacle course that would allow a ping-pong ball to travel from one point to another using random materials found around our home. Unbeknownst to me at the time, he used an iPad to document his trials which demonstrate failure after failure that led to his success. In watching his iMovie you'll recognize his efforts of making slight alterations in order to reach the intended goal as well as the sound of success at the end.
See Julian's iMovie: Trial and Error by Julian
Imagine the impact that would transpire if all students were empowered to continue to persevere in the face of challenge, and yearned for the shear joy of the process of overcoming obstacles. We can make this happen, and kids deserve the culture and environment that supports this.
Intrinsic motivation catapults students' determination and outcome of success. As educators we have the collective capacity to share in the movement to empower students to be innovative problem solvers, who develop the prowess to examine situations from all angles. Every child deserves a champion who will tailor and foster a learning environment for them to bloom. Be the change you wish to see in education because #kidsdeserveit.