As I visit schools, observe teachers, talk with students and reflect on my experiences is becomes obvious to me that one of the attributes of successful effective teachers is their willingness to take risks.

Like many of you I understand that taking risks moves individuals from feelings of comfort but doing so leads to enhanced competencies and in the case of teachers to increased impacts on students’ knowledge, skills and dispositions.

I was delighted when one of my colleagues shared a web site of a young professional that stated:

“We learn and grow the most when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable.  Sometimes we have to be willing to step into the unknown and bushwhack our way through the jungle to get to where we are meant to be.”

This quote by Rebecca Zulueta certainly moves my concept of risk taking to another level by focusing on being vulnerable.  She further advances this notion by suggesting we “bushwhack our way through the jungle” to achieve our desired goals and outcomes.

This ability to choose to be susceptible to challenges is indeed admirable and in the case of teachers quite unusual.  But taking risks and being susceptible allows us to advance beyond our current capabilities and hopefully well beyond our goals and expectations.

But to take risks and be vulnerable requires not just individual courage and commitment but must be implemented and integrated within an environment that is supportive of such strategies.  Teachers who take risks and allow themself to be vulnerable need to be encouraged and supported otherwise they move from risk to danger.

This connection between individual commitments and the school’s climate holds not only for teachers but also for students.  Think how healthy it is for teachers to encourage students to take risks and be vulnerable by modeling such values and behaviors and reflecting on the results and impacts.  Now think how these strategies can be supported by a safe, engaging, equitable and dynamic school climate that sees risk taking as routine and being vulnerable a precondition to fuller individual development.

Terry Pickeral
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Terry Pickeral

Terry Pickeral, has extensive experience in policy development, advocacy, education reform, youth leadership, teaching and learning strategies, education collaborations, evaluation and civic development. His commitment is to ensuring schools create and sustain quality teaching and learning environments for all students to be successful in school and contribute to their communities as active principled citizens.
Terry Pickeral
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