Friday, July 3, 2015

Week 19 - Taking Risks

Well if it is not obvious this is a very delayed post as the school year is technically done, but image for a second instead that first semester is just ending and second is around the corner. I had been thinking a lot about taking risks at the time - both from the perspective of taking chances as a teacher, and the perspective of getting students to take risks in the classroom.

My own psyche fascinates me as I seem to be able to take risks in my teaching (both in class and online) despite having trouble with this in my everyday life. Perhaps it is something to do with my comfort in my profession and my confidence in the support I get from my PLN, colleagues, and admin. If it is not that, then I really do puzzle myself. This is not to say in any way that the risks I am taking do not feel that way - many of them do.

In my classroom I am always trying to do something a little different. Trying to come up with things to engage students in my flipped classroom (which could mean a new lab, different investigation, new attempt to use manipulations to teach a concept, or using a new strategy altogether) means that I am taking a risk with what students are going to learn (or if they will learn) which always feels like a personal risk. I think that most of that personal risk is related to pride. I feel thankful that this first semester had some good students so there was more room for me to take personal risks or my ego (I find it a lot harder to do that when I am having a rough semester already).

These risks lead to a feeling of vulnerability. Every time a teacher posts a blog, admits to defeat, publicly asks a question on Twitter she is risking feeling vulnerable or judged by others. Now it is not very common to be challenged by another educator, as there is a mutual respect and desire for personal growth and learning, but in doing so our thoughts and ideas are published for everyone else to see (students - current and former, - parents, and community members sometimes monitor what we do as well) and I have experienced first hand how these things can be misunderstood or twisted out of context to make them seem something they are not.

This has become a bit more of a ramble than I had intended, so if you are still reading I thank you.

The other side of the idea of risk taking is trying to get students to take risks in the classroom. I will be the first to admit that I have had a lot of trouble getting this to become more common in my classroom. Teenagers often carry with them an innate desire to fit in (and for many to blend in) and risk taking in front of their peers may be the last thing they wish to do. But it is with these risks that learning comes from. We learn by making mistakes, by making new connections. I have challenged myself to come up with a time that I made a mistake that I did not learn from...and could not come up with one.

For now one of my goals is to try to use conversation in the classroom more as a means to get students to start to talk about their thinking, to admit when they are unsure, to work through problems together. I have tried giving students an online place to do this as well to give them 24 hours access to things, but have not had much luck. One thing I do know is that if these things do not get initiated by students that usually are not authentic enough to get them to use it. I have tried even giving them anonymous ways to post online to ask questions and still have had no luck.

If you have any ideas to share for in class or online risk taking for learning please leave a comment below!

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