As leaders, there is an incredible value in supporting both teachers and students that take risks in the classroom. After talks with many teachers as they begin in schools all around the country, I find that I am far luckier as a teacher than I ever truly realized.
Requirements are part of teaching. They are part of school. We are required to help kids learn certain things. Many teachers are required to do it in a very specific way. When I started at my school I would consider the culture for risk taking to be one of approval by neglect. My kids were learning, their indicators were showing positive growth, and parents and kids were happy. Because of those facts, nobody stopped me from making minor changes, and occasionally major ones. I brought with me strategies and ideas that I had learned under some remarkable teachers. I would not say I was supported, but I was at least allowed some professional freedom.
Now, working in the school I am in now, there are times when I still feel like people think I am slightly crazy in some ways, but I have the ability to try more to improve my classroom for my kids.
As I work to become a school leader, I want to be the kind of leader that offers support. “Would you like me to come and watch what you are doing to see if I can help?” or “What types of things do you need to make this successful?” are the kinds of questions supportive leaders ask. They also include statements like, “I don’t think this works because…” or “I see what you are trying to do, but have you considered….”
Supporting risk takers is not just good for inspiring professionals, it is good for improving practices and learning as a whole. If you want to have a good school, play it safe. If you want to have a great school, support taking professional risks, even if they don’t work out as planned.