Taking Risks, Working Together, & Failing in order to Succeed


Reasonable Risks, Crossing Bridges, & Collaborations are Keys to Learning & Growth

I keep hearing about how important it is to promote the taking of “reasonable risks” in our classrooms and school communities.  The theme of “failure” as a learning opportunity is hot in the education dialogue right now…as it should be.  After all, where would any of us be without it?  Failure has arguably brought us every great innovation, idea, and achievement that we have.  It can be an incredible motivator, a wonderful teacher, and a tremendous character building resource.  No risk, no reward.  I’ve mentioned before that I’m a believer in axioms.  They generally make sense because they tend to be time tested.  I could declare that eating mashed potatoes with every meal makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.  However, it most likely would not make axiom status, in large part because it’s not true.  It doesn’t work.  As tasty as mashed potatoes are, it probably is not in anyone’s best interest to eat them with every meal (especially if you’re a butter fiend like me).  On the other hand, when people get to bed early, they set themselves up for reasonable amounts of sleep (and tend to stay out of late night trouble), and when they wake up early, they have time to get things done.  So many people have found this practice to be a good model for health, wealth, and wisdom that early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise became an axiom. I digress in an effort to illustrate that no risk, no reward holds true as well (statistically).  So, earn a penny by saving one, stick with birds whose feathers are similar to yours, keep your chin up, get out of the kitchen (if you can’t stand the heat), imitate people you wish to flatter, strive for less (it’s actually more), treat people how you want them to treat you, behold beauty in your own way, don’t try to change a leopard’s spots, if you’re looking to save nine stitches…stitch one (in time), face the music, and for goodness sake…take risks!

My two-year-old has an aptitude for risk taking.  Ironically, I frequently find myself calling after him with words like, “no,” and “stop,” and “don’t,” in a loud, sharp voice, and with a reddening face.  I don’t want the kid to get hurt.  But there in lies the art of modeling reasonable risk-taking and supporting our learners in taking reasonable risks.  It’s the reasonable part that they need to understand.  How can we help our children and our students develop the essential critical thinking skills that allow them to determine whether or not any given risk is in fact reasonable?  I would suggest that we will have done our jobs if those we raise and teach are not only able to be reflective and grounded enough to cross each bridge as they come to it, but that they will be able to evaluate how to cross, if an alternative route is called for, or if crossing is in fact not the reasonable option at all.  Then, I would like to think that they will have the courage and resourcefulness to follow through with whatever conclusion they come to.  Finally, if/when they fail…I hope that we’ve been effective enough teachers that they are able to celebrate that failure as a step on the path to success.  Truman Capote said, “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”  I like that.

After multiple previous failed attempts…

IMG_2232  IMG_2233  IMG_2234

my 2-year-old risks life and limb to successfully cross the shaky bridge at the park!

I’m currently engaged in an exciting project with two incredible educators who I recently met on Twitter.  Together with Ashlee Logan (@logan_ashlee) and Aaron Koleda (@aaroNKoleda) I’m co-founding and co-moderating a Twitter chat focused on ways that educators can use videos and video production for best practice instruction in their classrooms and school communities.  The idea was born out of an informal conversation about Ted Talks, a combined love of collaborative learning, and a collective desire to grow by taking reasonable risks!  Given that we each live and work hundreds of miles apart, the three of us would have little chance to know each other if not for our individual efforts to reach out (a reasonable risk).  I’m relatively new to Twitter, but I’m quickly finding that the magic isn’t in having access to the limitless flow of ideas and resources.  Rather, it’s in the opportunity to meet like-minded individuals, connect, and engage in relationships that extend past one hundred and forty characters.  Ashlee, Aaron, and I met recently for the first time in a Google “Hang Out.”  It was awesome! Having bounced our ideas and enthusiasm back and forth on Twitter for a few weeks it was wonderful to be face-to-face (to-face), even through a video chat.  The next step is continuing to develop our #vidEDchat concept.

We’ve set up a blog and a Twitter account, we’re collectively brainstorming format, guiding topics, logo design, and connected resources, and we’re actively communicating the upcoming maiden voyage of #vidEDchat to our respective PLNs (August 14th from 9-10am).  Our intention is to recruit as many collaborators as possible to join in on our journey to explore how videos and video production can enhance learning.  We hope to enlist experts like Brad Waid (@Techbradwaid) & Drew Minock (@TechMinock) from www.twoguysandsomeipads.com to join when we discuss augmented reality, Todd Neslony (@TechNinjaTodd) at www.toddneslony.com to help us explore how videos and video production play into flipped instruction and project based learning, and chat pros like Michele Corbat (@MicheleCorbat ) & Victoria Olson (@MsVictoriaOlson – http://techteacheronamission.weebly.com/) to provide feedback as we work to develop the concept.  One of the most important aspects of this effort to each of us is that it’s a shared effort.  I’ve not met anyone on Twitter who isn’t there to connect.  The collaborative energy is outstanding.  My incredible #vidEDchat partners and I are more than ready to cross the bridge from shooting off and reading Tweets to building authentic relationships by which we can perpetuate ongoing and meaningful collaborative learning.  We’re excited at the prospect of joining forces with as many others as are so moved to join us!  Two of the axioms at play here are no risk, no reward & the more the merrier.  The reasonable risk is that we’re putting ourselves out there, exposed in the Twitter-sphere, ready to push through the roadblocks in developing an idea we believe in.  The hope is that others find our collective work as meaningful as we have, and that by growing this chat we’ll be exposed to learning that will take everyone involved to places we couldn’t have otherwise imagined!  As educators we will continue to practice and model this type of action and learning, not only for our children and our students…but for ourselves!

Post a comment

You may use the following HTML:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>