#YourEduStory – model risk-taking in the class

This week’s topic: how do you model risk-taking in the classroom?

This is the first year I have had a “class” in five years. However, in those five years, I have been teaching teachers. So, while I may not have had a traditional class, I did model risk-taking to hundreds of teachers.

As learners, we take a risk every day, every second. When you open yourself up to learn, you are taking a risk. You are exposing your knowledge or lack thereof. In doing so, you are also showing courage and strength.

There are some things I find learners, especially adults, more willing to learn and, therefore, more willing to take risks. Being the designated “tech” person, it seems there is a reluctance to learn tech. Though the same skills go into learning to cook a new dish, I find more reluctance when it comes to learning a new program.

The key to risk-taking is making it not seem like that large of a risk. I still don’t have the answer to why learning tech seems like a larger risk, but it does. My guess is that it has a stereotype of being a “nerd’s club.” Therefore, anyone who doesn’t identify themselves that way, thinks the risk is too large. I don’t identify myself as a math person so, when I sit in a math class to learn statistics, I have a lot of fear. My learning risk seems enormous.

Going in to any training I deliver, I try to remember this: tech has a stigma surrounding it. We need to take the edge off the risk they perceive. For me, that means giving learners small tasks – simple things they can do and feel successful at. Call it trickery if you wish. To me, it’s scaffolding. For instance, in helping staff members become more efficient and productive, I’ve helped them switch to Google Drive. However, showing them all of Drive intimidates them. The risk is too large. So, I break it into chunks: today, we’ll work on uploading your old files here so, now, you know where to find them online…tomorrow, we’ll work on organizing those files. And, eventually, you’ll just use these files. Finally, you’ll start creating new files here.

And, that’s how I get learners to take a risk and make something new. Take the edge off of the risk.

Though I take a lot of risks, I’ve noticed that staff members will just disregard it and say, “well, Christy is just really good at that.” I find that happens to many “risk-takers.” I have worked with some very innovative teachers and, historically, other teachers do not want to learn from them because they are intimidated. They see someone who is very risky and it scares them.

So, even though I model risk-taking, I don’t think it’s my modeling that helps build learners. In fact, it intimidates many around me. Instead, I try to highlight learners who take small to medium-sized risks. Those risks seem manageable to others and, therefore, they are more apt to try them.

Think about your students. Do they model the student who does everything right & above the bar? Or, do they model the ones they think they can follow?

Make yourself “follow-able.” Take the edge off of risks as you model them. This means breaking things down. And, that also means bringing yourself to a human level. This cannot always be done, unfortunately. But, if you are “intimidating,” find another “safe” person who can help those in need take risks.

Co-workers call me the Google Ninja. And, even though I love teaching all levels of Google integration, some teachers are afraid to ask me for help because they think I’m the all powerful – or a version of that. So, in those cases, I lean on my student tech team to help make those risks seem more achievable.

It’s not about how I model risk-taking; it’s about how I delegate risk-taking.

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