Posts Tagged ‘risk taking’

I’m a convert.

I know that reading is a most powerful tool and is the cornerstone of all education.

So, it comes as no surprise to me when I read that Elon Musk, one of the most innovative and visionary minds of our time, credits his success to just eight books he has read.


A most inspirational characteristic of Elon Musk is the fact that he is a ‘risk taker’.

Not once, but many times, throughout his life, Musk has taken incredible  gambles, many of which saw him lose position, status and wealth.

Determined to follow through on his ideas, Elon Musk is having an incredible, positive impact on our world and is, without doubt, a most powerful role model for students in our schools.

Infographic Source: fundersandfounders.com

Infographic Source: fundersandfounders.com




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“Professional development in the technological age goes beyond mere skills training and software applications to encompass both formal and informal means of learning new techniques, developing new insights and transferring new skills into practice.  The professional growth of teachers, particularly when paired with technological advancements and implementation in the classroom, is often associated with fear.  The greatest trepidation seems to be keeping up with change, which is both unrealistic and exhausting.  We will never keep up but isn’t that the most exciting ingredient in being lifelong learners?  If you can minimize, or even better eradicate this fear, the power of moving forward rather than becoming stagnant, enriches the classroom.  It is an idealistic aim that the teacher is the ‘bearer of all knowledge’.  The teacher needs to become the facilitator of opportunity.  When a partnership is formed between the teacher and student working in collaboration as dual learners, the fear will evolve into exhilaration.  Although learning on a ‘needs to know’ basis’ keeps us sane and focused, it is the brave and invigorated teacher that keeps at the forefront the elusive leeway of what may come next.   The key is replacing fear of the unknown with curiosity.”

Sometimes the words of others really resonate with me.   When I read these, written by Monique Corcoran – unfortunately not available online – in an article in Education Technology Solutions (Issue 42, June/July 2011 p. 24), I honestly felt that her words could have passed as mine!

I’ve written previously about my recollections of those early days when I was first exposed to computers.  Re-reading my post – The sky’s the limit! – I realize how far I’ve come.  But the feelings I had back then are as real to me today as they were then.   ‘Fear’, which Corcoran pairs with learning and mastering technological advancements is, I feel, more common than many would believe.

There’s no doubt that risk taking is coupled with many other emotions:

  • fear of failure is a most tangible feeling; the consequences of not being able to master a new concept or a new skill can be overwhelming and can act as a ‘blocker’ to being able to process ‘how to’ instructions let alone remembering them
  • fear of admitting ignorance can be perceived as an embarrassment; not many of us are comfortable letting our colleagues, let alone our students, see that we have a huge gap in our knowledge
  • fear of bungling it when you ‘try out’ a new skill can be disconcerting; feeling inept isn’t very encouraging; having colleagues see first-hand your inability to remember lessons just learned can be soul destroying
  • fear of the unknown is not easy and can go a long way to shattering a teacher’s self image; for older or more experienced teachers the unknown can be threatening beyond belief
  • fear of being thought stupid or having others see your faults, your weakness and your inability to master new skills can be intimidating ….. a real threat to one’s reputation
  • fear of being vulnerable is akin to exposing weakness to others; allowing work colleagues to see weakness can mean embarrassment as well as loss of self esteem
  • fear of rejection by others because you are seen to be less able, less competent or less tech savvy is a palpable fear; we are all subject to our weakness
  • fear of being regarded as incompetent can lead to feeling useless and hopeless; we all strive to feel of value and to be an active, contributing member of the school’s teaching staff
  • fear of not being in control stems from not knowing how to do something; not being the master of a situation can be both daunting and scary
  • fear of feeling overwhelmed of not keeping up with the sheer enormity of all that’s lurking out in cyberspace just waiting to be learned, let alone the rapid pace of change, can be disheartening;

We’ve all been vicitims to the never ending cycle of striving to say ‘on top’ of the new.  Accepting that we’re unable to master it all nor keep up with rapid technological change is an important first step in overcoming fear of the unknown.  Simultanously recognizing that risk taking is but a stepping stone along the path of learning is to discover and allow oneself to explore that wonderous journey of lifelong learning!

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Rome wasn’t built in a day….. nor was it built in three days ….. But this house ….. just have a look at it …..   Built in three days ….. and oh dear ….. I can’t say what happens at the end or you will hate me for wrecking your viewing of this cool video clip.  Quick ….. have a look at the video and then I will continue!

Cool ay?   Can you imagine trying to build this slowly let alone quickly?   Pretty hard to imagine ….. perhaps near impossible to create even.   But ….. isn’t this what we have all been doing over the last year?  In both our professional capacity as well as at a personal level ….. we’ve been building …..  placing one card on top of another to structure our thinking, our learning and our growth in understanding.  Card by card, we’ve been busy erecting foundations for future growth.

Like you, I too am nearing the end of the year.  Packing my bags, clearing my desk, ensuring that all is in order prior to heading away for the summer.   With all that action, reflection on what has been achieved looms large in my mind.  What have I achieved?  What have I gained?  Where am I going?  And what on earth have I been trying to do?   Heavy stuff ….. I know.

Just like this video, I’ve been building, card by card, a scaffold on which to lean, to learn, to teach and to share.  Thinking, planning and delving into the new.  That’s what I’ve been doing and that’s what I hope to be doing in the future.   When I look back over the last year, I wonder what it is I’ve achieved.   Like you, there have been moments of elation.  There have also been moments of total frustration.  I too have shouted from the rooftops about all the amazing discoveries made over the year and like you I’ve had to sometimes deal with the stony silence that has resonated back from the valleys.  Why?  Why haven’t I turned the world upside down, paved the way for the new and exciting?  What is it I’ve not done to dramatically alter the paths of those around me?

Ah ….. yes….. the cards …… I come back to the cards.  Rome was not built in a day.  It takes longer than three days too.  What are the ingredients that will impact on both me and those around me?   For the first time, a list is actually formulating in my head.   Here goes – my recipe for growth and change – both in myself and in those in my working environment:

  1. Encouragement: Surrounding ourselves with positive vibes emanating from an encouraging environment is essential.  Developing confidence can only be achieved in a safe and secure environment.
  2. Risking it: Overcoming the fear of the unknown, jumping in feet first and taking a risk is without doubt a key factor that will ensure growth and development.  Experimentation with the new ensures that learning from mistakes or successes will occur.
  3. Immersion: Like learning a foreign language, fluency will be attained only if we practice it all the time.   We must constantly expose ourselves to opportunities that will ensure we are observing and learning about new methods and ideologies.
  4. Time: Taking the time to digest the new and allowing the new to be synthesized with the old is the only way change can occur.  It is unreasonable to expect of ourselves or others that new habits and new ways of approaching learning will instantaneously be put into action.  Having patience to absorb the new is very important.
  5. Engagement: Active learning is essential.  Don’t sit back waiting to be told how to do something.  Jump in and give it a go.  Learning by doing is not just an empty phrase.
  6. Patience: Accepting that Rome wasn’t built in a day is really important to ensure that disappointment and frustration doesn’t take over the mind’s psyche.
  7. Leadership: Change in an organization will occur if leadership sets in place opportunities for learning and growth.   As classroom teachers we constantly provide leadership to our students.  Creating safe, secure and directed learning environments in our classrooms sets the scene for learning.  Similarly, school leadership sets the scene for teachers learning.
  8. Collaboration: The joy of learning is enhanced when we share with others.  That two heads are better than one is obvious isn’t it.  Sharing is also the basis of collaboration.
  9. Individual differences: Accepting that we are all individuals and that we each have different learning styles is an important ingredient in the learning process.  Not comparing our own progress with that of our colleagues is a sure way to avoid the competitive feelings that can detract from continued progress.
  10. Lifelong learning: Recognizing that learning and teaching are flip sides of the same coin, creates a very powerful learning community.  Recognizing that continued learning is something that comes from deep within us is a key to unlocking the realization that none of us ever stop learning. Learning begets learning!

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