Taking Big Risks
When you think about it, most things we take on in life are project based. Planning an event, cleaning out the closet, renovating/decorating your home, taking a trip/vacation are all projects. Within the Clariden environment our students take on projects every 4-6 weeks. Some projects are STEAM oriented and others have a focus on English and history. When students engage in projects they are learning life skills. One must learn to collaborate, communicate well, be creative, problem solve, be patient and take risks.
Risk taking is not comfortable and not something most humans naturally gravitate to. We prefer the same old – same old – the tried and true way of doing things. The “same way” has value no doubt but what if we teach our children to take more risks? To not be afraid to try something new – to make mistakes?
The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley recently shared research that shows the significance of mistakes – of risk taking. Consider this:
1. Focus on Errors, Don’t Ignore Them – Learn from errors instead of just ignoring them – spend time with your errors.
2. Fail First – Then Learn – This is referred to as “productive failure”. Teachers step in once the student has attempted and struggled to find a solution, allowing the student to learn from their mistakes opposed to being guided step by step in how to do the problem.
3. Be confident and be wrong. “Multiple studies suggest that the more confident you are in the wrong answer, the more likely you will remember the right answer after you are corrected.”
4. Help students respond to perceived failure. According to UC Berkeley professor Martin Covington, the fear of failure is directly linked to self-worth. “Covington found that students will put themselves through unbelievable psychological machinations in order to avoid failure and maintain the sense that they are worthy.” This translates to students avoiding content areas that are difficult for them, not taking classes from professors that challenge their students, and not trying new things that they fear they will not shine at.
The bottom line: If we don’t encourage risk taking and mistakes, we are hindering and limiting our child’s ability to learn.
The research supports the saying that our greatest learning comes from our biggest mistakes. So let’s encourage students to try, to question, to fail, to take on challenges, and thus to learn deeply and greatly!

Source: UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Learning Center

— Sallie Wells, Head of School