Monday, March 5, 2012

Take A Risk: Learning to Stand (Part 1)

Risk: It is a scary word linked with development, profit, enjoyment, learning, ignorance, danger, etc. Teenagers are known for engaging in risky behaviors, due to the delayed development of the cerebral cortex. The Winter X Games on ESPN showcase young athletes performing dangerous maneuvers on skis and snowboards for fun, funds and fame. Figures like Eval Knieval (famous daredevil and stuntman) are synonymous with risk. In film, we have been exposed to the dangerous game of Russian Roulette, where the rotation of the cylinder determines one's ultimate fate.

Ewan (my eight month-old son) is taking a risk every time he pulls himself up on a piece of furniture to stand. Sure, this is a baby-size risk - but a risk nonetheless. There is a chance he could tumble or bop his head on something. My wife and I have said: "He needs to learn how to ____.", "Let's see what he does.", "Let him figure it out." As parents we permit healthy and safe risk-taking from Ewan. These are not encouraged because we want and enjoy seeing him fail. It is quite the opposite; we want and enjoy seeing him excel. What opportunities for healthy risk-talking are we creating for ourselves and our students?

I believe we take risks because we want to improve. We want to grow, learn, and not be satisfied with the status quo. Ewan desires to stand for many reasons. The floor is safe, but he does not want to stay at that level. There are objects with which he wants to view and engage in that can not be attained by the floor's vantage point. To run you must first overcome the obstacles associated with learning to stand and walk! Where do you want to run, and what is causing you feel as thought you are still crawling on the floor?

We can not build a ultra-protective bubble around every child. Removing risk is actually MORE risky, because when trouble/failure eventually are encountered one can feel devastated. Individuals will think they are incapable of overcoming road blocks. It can create a fear and total avoidance of risk. Not engaging in healthy risk-taking develops handicaps. How are we handicapping ourselves and our students?

Are you ready for a transformation?

I think of Colin in one of my favorite stories, Frances Hodgson Burnett's 'The Secret Garden'. This young man was believed to have conditions making him incapable of walking, going outside, and exposure to bright lights. Not to give away a portion of the plot line, but it turns out he isperfectly healthy! The over-protection of his father and servants rendered him fearful, isolated and miserable. Luckily, Mary was the agent of change and introduced risk to everyone - and what a truly beautiful transformation is it was. Are we allowing risk to transform us and our students positively?

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