By Teachers, For Teachers
Children aren’t exactly known for being risk-takers when it comes to their own learning. Many students tend to “Play it safe” because they’re afraid to try new things for lack of fear or failure. For a child, taking a risk can mean different things, for one it can simply mean raising their hand to answer a question, while for another it can mean going above and beyond the normal expectations. As you can see, student risk-taking can take on many forms in the classroom. What you can do as a teacher is use classroom management to show students that taking a risk is OK, and that it can actually lead them to be more successful. Here are a few of the benefits of risk-taking.
Show students that success can come when they take a risk. Teach students that the biggest risk is not taking one at all, and the odds are even better than they may think. A lot of the time, people view risk-taking negatively, like something bad will happen if they try something new. However, it can actually mean the opposite. Albert Einstein said it best when he said, “A ship is always safe at the shore, but that is not what it is built for.” While taking a risk can be scary, it can end up successful as long as it’s smart, planned, and organized. Give students examples so they can understand better. Tell them about Bill Gates and how he dropped out of college to fund Microsoft. While he urges students to stay in school today, it’s the point behind his decision they need to understand.
Risk-taking comes at a cost, and it’s important that students be realistic about that. It’s also important for students to know that it’s an opportunity for them to learn and grow from. While taking a risk can pan out some of the time, there will be other times that it won’t, so they need to be OK with failure. Have students brainstorm and talk about possible risks they’d like to take, as well as the pros and cons of taking the risk. They’ll realize that the odds of taking the risk is always better than not taking it at all.
The great thing about trying new things is the confidence that it gives you. Once you learn to break away from your “Typical” way of thinking, you’ll become accustomed to a new confidence that’s inside of you. Risk-taking can help build your self-esteem because it empowers you. The more that you take risks and are successful, the more powerful you’ll feel. Students can learn this by participating in easy risks that are successful. These risks include taking turns being the leader, choosing their own group projects, or creating activities where the students are in charge. By providing opportunities for students to excel, they will gain more confidence.
Oftentimes, students don’t take a risk for fear of failure, but once they learn to take a risk, it helps them overcome their fears. For example, if a student really wants to try out for a sports team, but fears if he does, he won’t make the team. They’ll either learn that by facing their fear and trying out, they’ll make the team, or they’ll learn that facing their fear and not making team was just a stepping stone to trying again next year. Either way they’ll learn to overcome their fear, it’s all in their mindset and the way you teach them to look at the situation.
There’s something about taking a risk that empowers a child. It may be because risk-taking is something that is up to the child, so when they decide for themselves to take a risk, it feels good. Experts say that it’s the dopamine, the brain’s feel-good chemical. This is what’s responsible for when we feel so good after we do something daring that we’ve never done before. Once students understand how powerful this feeling is, then they’ll be willing to take on even more risks in the future.
Teach students to risk without regret and encourage them to move beyond their typical mindset. Support their risk-taking actions and reward them when you see them not “Playing it safe.” If you truly want your students to take risks and not be afraid to fail, then you must foster this type of classroom atmosphere, and make sure students understand this is part of the learning process.
How can you use classroom management to create a classroom that fosters risk-taking? Please share your thoughts on this topic in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.