Sitting in a session with Tracy Clark, about “A Posture of Experimentation“, she asked us to fill in the blanks on the following statement:
Trying something new is like ___________ because _________.
This was a great exercise in having the group think about, and embrace the opportunities for our own growth.
As I thought about it, it is easy to promote the ideas of others embracing their own personal growth, but as educators, both with our colleagues, and our students, do we create environments that are safe for this type of “experimentation”? For example, I walked into a classroom recently and saw the sign that stated, “Do it right the first time.” This does not promote the mindset. Although it is easy to criticize this quote, I honestly would have had the same mindset in my classroom as a teacher when I started in 1999. You often create, what you experience. But the reality is that it is easy to say, “try something new”, without the work of creating an environment that is safe for this type of experimentation. In education, this is not simply on one person or group, but about us as a whole.
Even this past week, I watched a Twitter account have their grammar corrected by someone (who was thankfully not an educator) online in a very blunt manner. Was their grammar incorrect? Yes. Did it really matter? No.
Although I saw the tweet and the response and thought it was not the best way to use the medium, I did not know the person behind the account, until they showed up to my session. They just happened to be a high school student who was actually crushed by the public correction. Did this interaction, as small and little for one person, help create a mindset in another individual that was open to “taking risks”? (I did end up tweeting everyone to follow that account and hopefully made them feel a little bit better!)
This happens online though, but I have seen the same interactions in classrooms and meetings as well. Instead of seeking first to understand, we can often be quick to correct or squash the ideas and thoughts of others, instead of asking questions or seeking first to understand. This is not about being “fluffy” and not challenging the ideas of others, or even our students, but it is about creating an environment where this feels safe, and is about helping others, not tearing them down.
Learning is relational. It is not simply a transfer of knowledge between two people or parties, so the connections and moments we have with each other are also crucial to growth. This safe environment is necessary if we want people to truly take risks.
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