Are You a Risk Taker?
On June 15, 2012, Nik Wallenda crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope. Wallenda is a seventh generation member of the legendary Great Wallendas, a travelling circus troupe which dates back to 1780. Risk taking is in his genes. Wallenda told the media, “The impossible is not so impossible if you set your mind to it.” As educators enter the 2012-2013 school year, many challenges and opportunities lie ahead.
The Common Core State Standards will mark the first time that 50 states have not developed their own state level requirements for each grade level or course. Implementing standards is something that educators have done for over two decades. However, implementing new standards will require teachers to take risks in unit planning, assessment, and instructional strategies.
Recently, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gave a keynote speech in Texas and he told the audience “The future of American education undoubtedly includes a laptop on every desk and universal Internet access in every home. It definitely includes more on-line learning.” While 1:1 laptop initiatives have started in several school districts across the United States, most schools still use textbooks, pencils, paper, scissors, and glue. Moving to a 1:1 setting involves risks for the superintendent, principal, teachers, and students. However, change cannot occur without risk takers.
Finally, changes are occurring in assessment. The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortia (SBAC) and Partnership for Assessment of College and Career Readiness (PARCC) are developing assessments which will allow for more authentic assessments. During the past decade, multiple choice assessments have become the norm in most classrooms. Test prep has included learning the “process of elimination.” Third grade classrooms across the United States have developed two-four week “Boot Camps” in order to prepare students for the end-of-year state assessments. The SBAC website claims that, “Smarter Balanced assessments will go beyond multiple-choice questions and include short constructed response, extended constructed response, and performance tasks that allow students to complete an in-depth project that demonstrate analytical skills and real-world problem solving.”
Are you a risk taker? Obviously, there are few people in the world who wish to cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope. This type of risk taking can be described as “daredevil.” Taking risks as teachers and students will help our schools. When we take risks, we grow as learners. The traditional classroom no longer prepares students for college and career readiness. The traditional classroom was designed to sort and select students – to help students move towards college or towards a career. “College and career readiness is not something that suddenly ‘happens’ when a student graduates from high school but instead is the result of a process extending through all the years of a student’s education” (ACT, 2008, p. 3). What risks will you and your colleagues take in 2012-2013 in order to move students closer to the goal of College and Career Readiness?
"Yes, risk-taking is inherently failure-prone.
Otherwise, it would be called 'sure-thing-taking.'"
- Jim McMahon, Chicago Bears