Posts Tagged ‘taking a risk’

I came across this commencement speech given by Denzel Washington at University of Pennsylvania back in 2011.

“Fall forward.” he says, “Every failed experiment is one step closer to success.”

Indeed, Denzel Washington’s words have a message not just for graduating students, but for all of us.  His words can be applied to all walks of life.  You’ve got to take risks!

Take a few minutes to listen to this edited clip of his speech.  The full speech can be viewed here.


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It wasn’t all that long ago that I didn’t even know how to turn a computer on!  I kid you not.  It was around 1995.  It was embarrassing to say the least.   I remember, when we were sitting in the computer lab, while our revered teacher, the lovely Helen White, who was then the computer queen of us all, had her back turned, that I quietly asked a colleague to show me where to find the ‘on’ button!   I knew she’d shown me just the week before, but do you think I could remember where to locate that blessed switch, the one that would transfer me into that foreign world of writing …. word processing!

So … I did it.  I traversed the hardware …  and persisted … and … just when I thought I’d won the war against computers, my demanding, but wonderful boss, Joe Corbett, insisted that I ‘automate’ our Library Collection.

I what?!”  was the most I could gasp at the time.  “Me?!?”  …   Ugh  ….  a horror story I thought!

How much harder could the daily pace get?!  Did I have a choice?  Short of quitting … no!   So …. while trying to sustain this full time job, complete my Library quals which I’d commenced – by correspondence – just the year before, I endeavoured to continue juggling  my work-a-day routine with my ‘other life’ – running a home, loving a husband, and revelling in the joys and wonders of my toddler son, not to mention all the other bits and pieces that life then had to offer.

Did I think I was going crazy?  Yup!  Most definitely!!  Did I?  Well … I’ll leave that to family, friends and colleagues who knew me back then to comment!

It is only now, many years later, that I realize that it was way back then that I learned one of life’s golden rules – taking a risk was a key to a new door, a new path, a new life.   Time and time again over the ensuing years this rule has been reinforced to me.    Taking a risk, diving in and and just giving it a go was akin to flying in space, climbing a mountain or just toying with the new.  It was a liberating feeling filled with the joy I have always associated with learning the new, mastering the unknown.  If you’ve ever taken a risk, you’ll know just what I mean!  It’s exhilarating.  The sense of satisfaction thrown in with a sense of achievement can really blow you away.

Taking risks is what has been going on for me over the last few months.   The first baby steps I took in my new life was ‘signing up’ to this blog.   Wow!  I clearly remember that late Saturday night … I was sweating over it!   Nervous as anything!  Worried I’d choose the wrong option … and on and on and on it went.   All that self doubt… sound familiar?  What was it really?  Undoubtedly it was the fear of failure.

Technology is about learning to do things differently and I guess that is what is so scary for us non digital natives.  Fear of the unknown and failure – yeah – nor really part of our make up, is it?!

Next time you are near a teenager, stand close enough to observe but far enough to not distract.  I know – it’s not easy.   Teenagers seem to have radars that detect us big ones a mile away!   But try it.   Watch how they interact with new technology or a new program.  It’s fascinating to watch.  It really is!   They lack something we adults have.  No fear.  No inhibitions.  No hesitations to tackle the new.   Sight unseen, they will explore, delve, manipulate and play until they figure it out.   Our youth are seemingly born with an intrinsic skill that we adults have to learn or rather unlearn.

Taking a risk as a teacher, for most of us, is quite unnerving.   But try it.

Challenge yourself to walk into a classroom and ask students for their help. I don’t mean to fake it.  Be genuine.  Ask them how to run a particular function on a program, how to locate something on the web, how to sign up for an account.   Apart from learning a new skill you will be empowering your students.  This, to me, is one of the most wonderful learning environments that we, teachers, can create:  An environment in which we all can learn, in which we all share and teach each other.

Taking a risk, empowering students to recognize that learning and teaching are flip sides of the same coin, can create a powerful learning community where truly, the sky is the limit!  Just hear what Adora Svitak has to say to us!

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