Last night, while contemplating the end of life as I know it (karaoke), I realized something. I have never really taken a risk. As I flipped through the karaoke song book that literally scared me to death, I truly felt the definition of risk deep within the pit of my stomach. Prior to last night, I’ve never been afraid to do something and I know this because I’ve never truly feared anything more than getting on a stage to sing. Risk is something born from fear…of the unknown and of the outcome. There is a rhyme and reason to my beginning this post with this experience. Bear with me.
Yesterday’s Educon sessions began with a conversation about the boundless classroom led by David Jakes and Scott Glass. It was a thought provoking discussion about exploring the learning shift with students where learning takes place anytime and anywhere. One of the questions posed to our group was, “What constitutes a meaningful learning experience” in which I immediately thought about the walls that we have ceremoniously established as a society in terms of learning. So many educators, especially secondary, still believe that their classroom space is the hub of learning yet students are learning constantly through the barrage of life experiences through which they are immersed. Traditional classrooms with constraints are still the norm and the idea of doing anything beyond that remains unvisited for many. I don’t believe that it has anything to do with a lack of wanting to change but more a fear of changing. The risk is far to great.
My next session was a conversation about Standards and Standardization led by the amazingly brilliant Diana Laufenberg. I have to say that I left this session with only one complaint. It was entirely too short! As a group, we explored beyond the definitions of the words “standard” and “standardized” and dug deeper into how teachers could teach standards authentically less standardization. This is an idea that many teachers and administrators struggle with in light of extensive testing requirements. I’ve heard time and again that authenticity takes time and resources that most teachers lack. As real as it is, it’s still an excuse born from fear. What if students fail? What if I fail? What if I leave something out? What if my evaluation is bad because students are failing? Certainly, authentic learning experiences for students are worth the risk, right?
Both of these sessions reminded me greatly about the risks that we take and the ones in which fear takes over. What if students are learning more outside of the physical school container than inside? What if students spend more time developing questions about their learning and exploring those questions in lieu of the standard pre-written sets. What if you go on stage to sing Bell Biv Devoe’s “Poison”… badly out of tune in front of a small crowd of people that you admire? How does one proceed with getting beyond the fear to take the risk?
Simple…you suck it up, take the leap and accept that for a short length of time, you’ll be extremely uncomfortable.