Monday, April 3, 2017

hard risks and soft risks (is that a thing?)

We want our children to be risk-takers. I want that for my students and for my son. Often, my mind goes to the realm of physical risks as an early childhood teacher when I encourage tree climbing and jumping from stumps, or cutting wood with a junior saw. It sounds so wild and free 'risk-taking' but really the phrase is imbued with the concepts of assessment and management. As we encourage risk we are simultaneously teaching the art and skill of assessing and managing risk. It's a wonderful, organic, and necessary process.

But risk-taking is so much more than puddle jumps, tree climbing, or working with tools.



For some, risk-taking is: speaking during Morning Meeting. It is joining a group already immersed in play. It is asking for help to open a lunch box. It is crying in front of peers and teachers. It is not knowing when you really want to know.

And just as we risk assess outdoor and indoor play spaces. We assess and manage the risk of our student's internal world. Our classroom culture: Do we nurture a space safe enough to fail and cry? A space where we can support children in their emotional ups and downs of the day? How does it feel in our small the classroom world for a child to take a risk?

All of this has come to mind because of a risk I took last week. I presented at a conference.

A handout from the session: All about strategies to encourage a student-centered, conversation-based circle time.
It might sound silly to some but this felt like one of the biggest risks I have taken in my adult life. Risk means different things to different people. For me, the thought of speaking in front of fellow educators brought a tight know to my belly and a quick beat to my heart. I thought about canceling. I half-hoped I might develop pneumonia.

But here's the thing...I know the value of risk-taking (and the implied risk assessment and management as well). So I pushed forward. I managed my risk by preparing and tweaking, editing, and re-editng until the day of the conference. And my mental assessment went something like this, 'be prepared...and hopefully things will be okay...and if I get pneumonia perhaps that's for the best'

I am writing about the experience though not to self-congratulate...but because it was so powerful to do something so scary and come out on the other side. I am left feeling the enormity of the shift in confidence by being brave and taking a risk. I am lucky that there are many kind and supportive people in my life. My husband and brother let me practice the presentation with them. And I have friends who I asked for feedback provided kind and constructive feedback.

All of this leads me to a new point of recent reflection regarding the vital need, in childhood and adulthood, to take risks. I want my classroom to be a place where those hard risks (think tree jumps) and soft risks (think entering group play) are well supported for every child. Your BIG risk may not be my BIG risk and we need to know those important details about every child.

And personally, I am going to bask in the happiness of being brave for awhile...and then pursue my next risk.


What is your most recent risk taking experience as an adult?







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