Making a Safe Place for Risky Thinking

I was a quiet and cautious kid.  I did not take risks. Share my ideas, not likely. i’d much rather play it safe.  I was the last kid in  swim class to jump off the high dive. To this day I remember the paralyzing fear. I was hanging in space alone, on a bouncy board, the pool so far away. Why did I jump? There was no other way out. I couldn’t turn back. I’d be lying if I told you I loved it. I didn’t. I still hate that hanging in space feeling. I was forced to do this. It was a requirement of the class.

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Over time, my risk-taking quotient increased. This year in teaching I’ve taken the biggest risks, made the biggest changes. So much of this change has been because of the network of teacher/learners on twitter, their blogs and their always supportive stance.  

It’s scary…

I regularly see the tweets: How to Get Teachers Over the Fear of Tweeting. I “get” that fear. At first I lurked, unseen no one would know. Then my big mouth got the better of my fear and I finally tweeted. Pushing the tweet button was a jump. For days I worried about tweet I’d made. I survived and unlike the high dive, no one made me. I did it on my own. Then I got support. I was retweeted. Oh my gosh, someone agrees! Maybe I’m worthy?

Once someone followed me, I was hooked. I belong! Now tweeting is as easy as breathing and as gratifying as eating ice cream.  I rush home to get to chats, and I’m extremely upset if I miss them. I was on a mission to get others at my school involved. A few adventurous souls do. They tell me they enjoy what I tweet, and I retweet them. I figure if I can get a few to put their toe in the water, maybe they will jump in.  As each one gets support, starts to belong,  they will spread the word to at least one other person. 

Responding to blogs was the next scary thing. Again I worried about what I said. But the responses I got back from the bloggers made it not only ok, but welcome. After all these are teachers, of course they were encouraging. 

With success, all of a sudden you crave it

So with all this encouragement, how about a blog? From the kid who wouldn’t raise her hand in class. Why? In large part because of the generous and supportive spirit of the twitter teacher community. While it was scary,  I felt safe, safe enough to try. 

My most recent jump, direct messaging. That may sound strange as another step, but it is personal. A reaching out to one person, no hiding. I worried: am I being presumptuous? Asking too much?  I was really concerned about something in my classroom and one person jumped into my mind. One person who would take the time and have the resources to help. So I direct messaged  Fran McVeigh. What followed was a long conversation about my writer’s workshop. Strategies were developed. My next steps clear, and a reminder to stay calm, take a breath. Thank you Fran, you’ve never met me but you know me!

Bringing my personal learning back to the classroom space

It’s week three and lots of parent questionnaires are rolling in. Another first this year, thank you Pernille Ripp for the generous sharing of your questionnaire. The responses are beautiful. I immediately felt that tremendous love and concern parents have for their kids. I felt honored to be let into their lives and obligated to foster these fragile beings. Amy Smith’s eloquent blog sends a message we all need to keep in our forethoughts when we invite our students in to class. All have their strengths and their fears.

They are me. Afraid to jump, share, speak, be. So what does it take to feel safe enough to  jump, to take risks with ideas, to put your thoughts in the air, on paper, on a blog? Here are some things I learned about risk taking and learning during my summer of lurking, tweeting, commenting and blogging. I think it applies very nicely to our classroom spaces.

Requirements for a Safe Place for Fragile Thoughts and Almost There Ideas

Where Risk Taking to Learn is Encouraged

1. There must be free will. It is not forced. There is a choice.

2. You are allowed to watch, to lurk.

3. There are baby steps that are supported: I agree!

4. There is a cheering section: Thank you, your thoughts matter.

5. There is a chance to lead other learners: You are the expert, show us.

6. There are experts to lean on, to help us through our tough moments:

Who can help me?

7. There are open spaces without judgement to express and discover

who you are,  and what you believe.

 As always, feel free to share your thoughts.