Today was the first day of my new job. How was it? A struggle, of course. How could it not be? As my shoes clicked across the hall floor this morning I thought, “Boy, it’s quiet here.” Something I’m not really used to. I taught in an inquiry classroom, which was often loud and boisterous.
For the past eight years, I’ve been a teacher at the same school. I knew what my role was, what I was there to do, what I was good at. So even though I took many risks in my classroom, there were many things that were safe. I knew how I fit into the larger picture.
But now all of that is gone, and I have to figure out what is mine to do in a new place. It’s hard. Ironically, it’s what I tell my grade 12’s they need to do when they graduate. It’s much easier to be giving the advice than living it.
And this is part of the reason why we need to equip our students to think on their own, to trust their instincts, to figure out what they love, and how to problem-solve and critically evaluate. This identity thing never goes away. We need to continue revisiting it our entire lives, and if it’s not done well, developmental theorists tell us the consequences can be disasterous. Maybe we need to talk to our students more about that. You can’t really run away from figuring out who you are and live well.
And the thing is, I have to figure it out myself. No one can hand it to me. I have to do the hard work. I’ve realized this is why school that is “real life” matters. Kids need to be involved in work that is challenging and at the same time fundamentally shapes who they are.
Rather than spending time memorizing answers for an exam, what risks are our students taking? In their learning? In their growth? Are they learning what they love and how they contribute? We must learn to risk wisely — it’s the only life worth living.
by William Arthur Ward
To laugh is to risk appearing a fool, To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out to another is to risk involvement, To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.
To place your ideas and dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return, To live is to risk dying, To hope is to risk despair, To try is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing.
He may avoid suffering and sorrow, But he cannot learn, feel, change, grow or live.
Chained by his servitude he is a slave who has forfeited all freedom.
Only a person who risks is free.
The pessimist complains about the wind;
The optimist expects it to change;
And the realist adjusts the sails.