Are you truly taking risks, or just thinking about it? via @sguditus

During this morning's #BFC530 chat, we talked about overcoming our fears and continuing to grow as an educator. What really resonated for me was this idea of encouraging ourselves, our students, and our staff to take risks in order to overcome our fears and continue to grow. I love that term: risk-taking.

Maybe it's because growing up, I never really saw myself as a big risk taker. When I think of risk-taking, I think of risky physical acts, like jumping from tops of buildings attached to bungee cords like in The Amazing Race.  Although you won't ever catch me jumping out of an airplane, as an adult I like to think that I am a healthy risk-taker. Maybe it's this dichotomy of what I envision as a risk-taker (sky diving) versus what healthy risk-taking really is (trying something new).

Members of my PLN challenged me this morning during the #BFC530 chat, to truly think and reflect upon my own risk-taking.  It made me wonder: am I truly taking risks, or do I just like to really think and talk about it, hypothetically?  Am I actually trying new techniques in my practice, or do I just like encouraging others to do so?  (Or both, I hope!)

I started racking my brain: am I taking risks myself?  Am I sharing this with my colleagues?  Thinking and reflecting more, yes, I like to encourage other to take risks, and yes - I am taking some risks in my own practice - but I can do more.  This #BFC530 chat reminded me how important it is to take risks and share them with our fellow educators. 

Modeling the behavior and expectations that we hope others will engage in is crucial to see a systemic change in a school's culture. But one can't model what one doesn't know is happening. Does the staff in my school think that I'm a risk taker? Do I think I am a cutting-edge, radical educator, when in reality I am either not or not communicating this? I commit to communicating the importance of taking risks – not just in theory, but in practice as well. In order to successfully encourage others to truly take risks, not just theorize about taking risks, I need to act - and be authentic, transparent, and vulnerable about what risks I have taken, which ones have been a failure, which ones have been a success and which ones scare me! Taking these risks and taking inventory of what I have done will help me grow my practice - but in order to successfully create a schoolwide culture of actual taking of risks, not just theorizing about risk-taking philosophy, I need to show, not just tell.
So let's take inventory: am I taking risks in my practice? Here are a few initial thoughts:
  • I want to have a conversation with staff every time I engage in a walkthrough - even a short one (as per Kim Marshall's recommendation).  I have publicly shared this with staff, and now I need to step up to the plate and improve in this area.
  • I signed up for Voxer and have engaged in several new PLN groups.  I took a risk, and tried this new piece of social media - and the reward has been huge.  I've connected with educators and have continued to grow thanks to colleagues from around the world.  I need to share this with staff.
  • We embarked on a journey to reestablish our school's core values in a very public way.  I felt very uncertain about this, but believed in the process, and the it proved to be a strong community-building activity.
  • Our school instituted in advisory program – with an incredible amount of support help, assistance and collaboration with a variety of staff and students.
  • We instituted an initial PBIS program in our school, tied to our new core values.
That's just a quick start. What are some additional ways that I can not just talk about taking risks but take risks?  Here are a few initial thoughts:
  • Have a No Office Day - and share my thoughts and insights with staff. 
  • Create a Student Advisory Council and get feedback from students. 
  • Engage in a book study with parents and staff about timely topics - even if it is a tough topic.

And so, I challenge myself and all of you: take inventory. Are you truly taking risks - or just talking about taking risks?  The shift in culture has to start somewhere - make it with you.

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