Mr Kemp NZ

Normalizing Struggle – How do we better instill an idea of risk taking and struggle in students?

Following up from the honor of being selected in Huffington Posts Top 12 Global Education Blogs of 2014-2016 I have been chosen again in this amazing group and for 2017 will be contributing to Huffington Post’s Education blog once a month. This month we look at the following highly controversial topic “How do we better instill an idea of risk-taking and struggle in students?” – here is my response:

The idea of genius is thrown around a lot in education which is often seen as intimidating and can lead learners to have a fixed mindset with limited desire to struggle and grow. So how do we move our students towards a growth mindset with constant desire to take risks, learn and improve in everything they do? During a recent #whatisschool chat that I host that brings together educators from across the globe, I posed questions related to Normalizing Struggle. Here are the common responses from some of the most respected and recognized global educators:

Q1) How do you bring out the ‘genius’ in every student in a school setting?

#whatisschool chatters expressed that being a role model and truly getting to know your students by building deep and meaningful relationships is key. They also shared that facilitating challenging learning experiences, caring about students interests and providing plenty of room for student choice and voice in lesson/project design makes a big difference.

Q2) What culture does the word ‘genius’ encourage? Why?

The global education leaders expressed that it is important to develop a culture that cultivates learning across different spectrums and caters to all passions and interests. Chatters shared alternative definitions of the word genius that really stuck with me such as this one: “To me, the word genius is the spark or inspiration that is encouraged by an environment in your class to take risks”.

Q3) How do you encourage risk-taking in your class/school?

Here are several examples of risk-taking in classes across the globe that are helping to normalize struggle:

  • Support, encourage, model. I let them teach the class, they love that
  • Risk-taking is not a moment in time – it is a culture of learning
  • BY MODELING IT. Teachers too must keep learning, risking, experimenting, copping to their mistakes and working to be better
  • Model, model, model. Facilitate through questioning. Encourage and empower
  • My mantra is, “This is new; this is hard; if you get it wrong then the challenge is to figure out how and why.”
  • Be a little vague and provide plenty of choices to watch their inner genius interpret what to do
  • By creating a culture that embraces failure instead of fearing it, we can encourage risk-taking naturally within our students
  • We fail forward and encourage teachers to make mistakes so students can see it is OK and not Taboo – modeling is key

And my 2 cents on this topic → I take risks. I own my mistakes. I challenge myself & push myself out of my comfort zone. I actively model this behavior and verbalize the process – my struggles, points of growth and reasons for continuing are always out there. Doing this makes it easier for my students (and teachers) to do the same.

Image Source: https://elisaguerra.net/

Q4) How do you encourage mistakes in learning?

Mistakes are proof that you are learning – it is as simple as that. Do whatever you can in your organization to instill this mindset! As educators, we need to openly make mistakes, be proud of it and learn from it – here is an article for further reading on this. 

Q5) How do you encourage diligence in your staff/students?

I genuinely think that this is probably the hardest thing to do. Especially if values and philosophies aren’t aligned. Good frameworks and protocols help, create and establish routines and set clear expectations. As diligence refers to the continued work and effort to make a difference – we model this at every opportunity.

Q6) What does this look like in action? Share examples from your class/school

  • Student-led parent information sessions like this one we ran at my school 
  • Talk to them and ask about their highs and lows, goals, and what they’re really interested in. Genuinely giving each person your time and interest makes a HUGE difference
  • This is building relationships, finding the students “why”, believing that the impossible is possible, student-centered learning, and did I mention building relationships?!
  • Table hopping and asking thinking questions to get students to dig in or guide them back.

Here is the full archive of the #whatisschool chat

So although this may seem a little disjointed and unfocused (re-reading it is driving me crazy), I wanted to express true and genuine feelings from educators that I look up to and I am inspired by on a daily basis. Their voice is important! We have amazing people doing great things on the ground and they need to be shared. I hope to see you at #whatisschool soon – click here to sign up.

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Craig Kemp

Craig Kemp

I am a passionate Head of Educational Technology at a large International School in Singapore. I am a lifelong learner, dream creator and thought leader. I love to inspire others and find inspiration. Co-founder of #whatisschool, #asiaED edchats and #pubPD.

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