Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Dangerous Teaching

One of the blogs that is a "must read" for me is Teacher Tom. Tom has taught me many things...and made me think about lots and lots of things. One thing that Tom has taught me is to rethink safety and risk. I want kids to be safe...and to have a safe environment in which to explore.

But I also want them to take risks, to try ideas (even if they are a little dangerous), and to gain control and competence. Tom regularly makes me think about how to do this with integrity and fun. I will be forever grateful to him for pushing me (through his blog) to put hot glue guns into the hands of my kids.

Next week I'm leading a conference about risky teaching (at the Heart of a Child conference in Oklahoma). In my preparation, I've been reading and re-reading other posts and information about risk, play, and kids. Here are some links--

Is There Danger in Play or More in Its Absence?

Is That Allowed?

Make It Safer. Add Risk.

Turning Parents onto Risky Play

Reaping the Rewards of Risk

How do you add risk to your teaching?


  1. I think children really benefit from being exposed to certain kinds of risk. It's a big deal to students when adults trust them to do something that involves a reasonable amount of risk. Kids gain more confidence in themselves, and even when mistakes are (inevitably) made, those tend to be great lessons too.

    Just last week a 4 year old boy and I made "forest bunnies" using materials we'd picked up from a morning scavenger hunt in the woods, and he used a hot glue gun to put googly eyes on a pine cone. Later, he and his 2 1/2 year old sister helped me cook macaroni and cheese on a stove top, adding ingredients, stirring and learning about the neat things water can do.

    We always talk about safety as a conversation (not a lecture), which I think makes a big difference. In my experience, students rise to whatever expectations the adults they care about set for them.

    Thanks for the post, and for sharing other articles on the topic! This subject is important to me, as I sometimes feel like parents and teachers try too hard to insulate children from risks that are actually healthy and cultivate confidence, problem-solving and independence.

  2. Good luck, Scott. I hope it goes well and I hope you can let us know how it goes.

  3. I think it is at least partially that we tend to see children as being much less competent than they actually are. With trust, support and encouragement, children can achieve so much.

  4. Scott, I just took a training last month from a male childcare provider in Iowa. His name is Jeff Johnson and his website is He is phasing out of childcare to work on his books (one coming out soon is called 'Let Them Play') and presenting trainings in the field. One of the training topics he presents is called Choking on Safety. I think you guys would get along fantastically. Check it out.

  5. Thanks for the share, Scott, and for continuing to bring this issue to readers' attention- it is so important!

  6. Another great post Scott. I'm sure the message will get out there with you on the case.