- AJ Bianco, a middle school teacher, writes for Ed Surge on how risk-taking educational strategies have improved student engagement in his classroom, suggesting strategies to lessen the fear of taking those risks.
- Creating a flipped classroom was the biggest risk he faced, but the result was a more engaged classroom that was able to see a teacher take risks and work through the issues he faced in the process — a valuable life lesson in itself.
- Bianco suggests that teachers gain a handle on risks by naming their fears and discussing ideas with colleagues to gain perspective, asking “what will happen if it works,” developing contingency plans, and celebrating both big and small victories.
Because they are on the front lines of education, teachers are often the biggest (but most untapped) engines of innovation in schools and districts. However, they have little hope of success if administrators and school leaders aren't willing to stand behind them with encouragement and resources to support their efforts. Teachers at low-performing schools, especially, should be encouraged to explore new ideas that can engage students and boost performance. Even if these ideas fail, teachers and administrators learn something in the process that will make the school more successful in the long run.
Risk-taking is important in education, not only because of the possibility of creating a new successful strategy, but because such innovation models demonstrate these processes for students, upon whom future innovation depends. In an article on risk-taking published by the Institute of Emerging Issues, the author writes, “We must teach our youth to look for opportunities and that failure in pursuit of them is a learning opportunity and ‘badge of honor,’ not a stigma to avoid at all costs.”
By creating space for risks, administrators can create a risk-taking culture that can encourage both teachers and students to explore new ideas and possibilities. Teachers can employ simple risk-taking strategies such as introducing unexpected elements in the classroom, encouraging students to teach on certain topics, or collaborating on projects. Learning the value of failure and putting it into perspective can also encourage student participation because of the risks of failure are minimized. Such strategies may also encourage students who see no way out of their limited lives to become more engaged in learning and more willing to take a chance on what the future holds. And that is a valuable goal of education.