Risk Taking and Out of Eden

I am starting my third year teaching in Ghana and I have taught elsewhere.  I have observed that teachers are not inclined to take risks. We spend our time doing what we do best, direct instruction in our topic areas, and we don’t like distractions. The problem is we are often scared to take students to a place that is out of our comfort zone. New content? Scary. New style? Scary. New anything? Scary.

Part of the fear is that we will lose students along the way or they will revolt. Part of it is feeling like we do not have permission to try new things. Part of it is just straight up fear of failure.

My own experience with taking a risk last year had all of these aspects of fear. Would the students join me? Did I have permission from my school to try something different? And, could I succeed at something I did not initially understand.

It was in this frame of mind that I began working with students in the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Project Zero initiative Out of Eden Learn. It was a big unknown for me. I decided to go for it. What is the worst that could happen?

Happily things went really well. Students enjoyed documenting everyday activities in Ghana. They made maps of their neighborhoods, interviewed local residents, documented important places in their neighborhoods with photos, and made short videos documenting one aspect of life in Ghana that was interesting to them. Finally, all of their work was shared with other students participating in Out of Eden from all over the world through the OOEL website. Students interacted in a social media environment that encouraged observing and questioning. This was a full and rich experience.

All of the work that they created was authentic, real, and valuable. They contributed to global knowledge and understanding of the world. In recognition, and in honor, of the work that student created some of their work will be shown in the exhibit _uncovering-the-everyday_ at the Harvard Graduate School of Education Gutman Library in October. This is an amazing way to show the human journey students have documented.



It turns out that if teachers are unwilling to take risks and try new things we are short changing our students. We can achieve more and deepen learning for students if we are willing to take a few risks now and then.