Friday, January 20, 2012

The Chief Danger

"The chief danger in life is that you may take too many precautions." ~Alfred Adler 

I read this quote this week. It reminded me of risky teaching, a recent theme that has been playing in my head. Teacher Tom often talks about it. Deborah of Teach Preschool mentiones it as well. Tim Gill's posts often involve it. And many other bloggers address it on some level. In fact, I've blogged about it myself from time to time.

But I realized today as I was thinking about this: risky can be different for every teacher. I've known this, at least on some level. I did hit on this idea somewhat last week in my Still Learning post. But today this idea leapt to the front of my brain. 

For some teachers, allowing children to explore paint in free form is risky. They haven't done that before. I've encountered teachers who think it's risky to let kids move around the room freely, choose what to do, choose when to leave and move on; that seem chaotic to them. Level of risk depends on experience and, perhaps, temperament. Some teachers work to plan many precautions, working to make sure that risk is as low as possible.

I want a safe environment. But I agree with Adler's statement above: too many precautions are a danger. A danger to what? Exploration... imagination... creativity... learning. 

I'm learning to be a more risky teacher - and to release some of those precautions. Risk for me often involves trying things that I don't know or plan the outcome. Sometimes it fails, like with my rope light. (We're going to try that again soon.) Sometimes it becomes a great success, like using sand outside the box. Sometimes, it's just releasing some control and saying yes to a child's idea, like allowing a counting activity to turn into a construction project.

Risky teaching - it allows kids to grow...and teachers, too. What's a risk you have recently taken...or would like to take?


  1. Amen Scott!

    There are many small steps we each have to take and we aren't all starting from the same place. Hopefully, each of us takes a risk or two every day, experiencing small epiphanies along the way.

    (You're really on fire these days!)

  2. My favourite recent risk was giving active boys pool noodles for outdoor play, in the hope they'd stop actually hurting each other with their superhero games. It SOOOOOO worked! They invented games I never would have thought of in a million years, and their whole-body play was actually enhanced by the new tools because they were quite hard to control. Sadly the other teachers hated it- it made them nervous and felt out-of-control. Sigh!!!

  3. I recently put the large gathering drum out for free choice and kept it out all day for several weeks. I don't like it when the noise levels get too high so I usually save the loud toys for outside or when there is a smaller group in attendance. But this class was using everything as a drum so I took a risk and left it available all day, along with electronic keyboard. The first few days were a little louder than I'd like but I got to see some great musical skills in action. And they stopped banging on everything in sight for a while!

  4. LOL I often think I allow too many risks - but the children have to experience life in order to learn what the risks are. I probably allow less risks than others because I have to answer to the owners of the school if there is a real risk involved - however there is no lack of risk at all. Here is an example -

  5. I think one of the latest issues I have stumbled across came from the M&M painting I shared. I had more concerns that the children my eat an M&M and they completely overlooked the idea because of this fear. I found this interesting since I am quite certain M&Ms are non-toxic:) I even video taped this so folks could see that the focus was on painting not eating!