Several years ago, a fellow colleague shared an affirmation that she recited with her students each morning, and being the good teacher that I am, I stole her idea and began reciting the following affirmation with my students:
I can be anything I want to be.
I am an important person in this world.
My attitude is the best,and I can cooperate.
I can dream dreams and make those dreams come true.
Every new day is an opportunity to improve myself.
I can take a risk; it may be difficult, but it is possible.
It is never too late for me to improve.
I will learn from my mistakes.
I WILL! I CAN! I MUST!
I would frequently share with my students that if we say something long enough, we begin to believe it, if we believe something long enough, it will become our conviction, if we have convictions long enough, they will become part of our character, and if something is part of our character long enough, it becomes part of our reputation; and it was certainly my goal that all of us, including myself, would have the reputation of being risk takers. (Okay, okay, I know this is dangerously close to brainwashing, but whatever works to encourage risk taking, works for me!)
Each time I asked my students to participate in a shared inquiry in a literature discussion, to show their thinking on a math problem using multiple representations, to provide evidence of their arguments and to recognize the validity of opposing point of views in their essays, I knew I was challenging them to be risk takers. Often the process involved making mistakes, then having to learn from those mistakes, forcing them to refine the process, and finally trying it all over again. In fact, each day a student showed up in my classroom, I respected the fact that he/she was taking a risk, trusting that although I very likely could have been making mistakes in the process, it was always my goal to be there to guide him/her through the learning experience in a way that was meaningful and engaging to that student.
Not only do I appreciate risk taking in students, but I also appreciate teachers who are willing to take risks in their own professional journeys as well. A special thanks to all of my colleagues in the Foundations Teaching American History Grant Project who truly exemplify the words of this affirmation. I appreciate their willingness to take risks and foster their own creativity as teachers by participating in the professional development training and collaborating with each other on best practices not only in person, but also through the use of Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs and web-based presentation tools. Their insights inspire me and push my thinking. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from them each day.