Creating a Culture of Risk Taking – 6 Simple Steps You Can Take on Your Campus

File_000 (1)Sometimes educators (teachers, and administrators alike) can get into the rut of doing it “the way it’s always been done.” But trying something new can not only make the lesson more engaging for the students but taking a risk and trying something new in a lesson can often rejuvenate the instructor as well.

As a school administrator or teacher leader on a campus, here are 6 easy and effective steps you can take to promote a culture of risk-taking on your campus:

Model it!

If you want your teachers to try new strategies in their classrooms, model risk-taking and show teachers that it is okay to take a risk by trying a new strategy in a meeting you lead. Use strategies you’d like to see implemented with students so that teachers have exposure to strategies from the student perspective. By participating in a meeting that utilizes the new strategies, staff may learn tips and tricks of how to (and how not to) implement the instructional practice in their own lessons. Check out my blog post 7 Ideas for Flipped and Blended PD for some ideas on how we’ve modeled strategies for teachers on my campus.

Be honest!

Share the challenges you faced in setting up and preparing to utilize the new strategy and even in executing it with them. Being transparent builds trust.

Encourage it!

Tell your teachers that if they want to try a new strategy out in their classrooms, they should go for it! Tell them to invite you! I even tell my teachers, “Don’t worry if I happen to walk in and things aren’t going perfectly. I am going to be cheering for you that you took a risk and tried a new strategy!”

Support them!

Offer support – to work with them one on one if they’d like more help to get started, to model the strategy in their classroom or be there with them the first time they try it. In my experience, only a handful of teachers have ever taken me up on these private help sessions, but all of them appreciate that I am willing to be there with them if they’d like that level of support.

Praise risk-taking efforts!

Tell teachers how awesome they are and showcase what went well to the school and community! Post on social media, in school newsletters, and share at staff meetings. By doing this you will encourage the teacher who went out on a limb and tried something new in their classroom, and you will get the momentum rolling for others to take the leap.

Provide feedback!

Once a staff member tries out a new strategy in a lesson, ask probing questions about how it went and what they might need to do to ensure that it goes even better the next time they incorporate the strategy. If they tell you it was an utter failure, offer your support and make yourself available to be there with them when they give it a second try.

I have found that after I model risk-taking, offer support, and provide encouragement, teachers are really open to a few pointers and bits of advice from an outside perspective. Ask if they’d like your opinion or advice on what you think would help the strategy be even more effective. Often when in the early stages of trying something new, people WANT that feedback to know if they are on the right track and how to make it the best that it can be.

When a teacher shows interest in a new strategy or instructional practice, encourage it! Ask when you can see it in action in their classroom and cheer them on for trying something new. Under these conditions, a culture of risk-taking can truly flourish.

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