“You never know what you can do until you try it.”
This famous quote has been inspiring people to take risks for generations, and yet in many schools, children are taught through rote memorization and a practice-makes-perfect philosophy.
When we teach our children that they can take risks in an academic setting, we build their confidence and promote problem-solving skills that lead to innovation and deeper learning. As parents, it might be uncomfortable to see children learn in an environment where the outcome is unknown, but when students are active learners who take risks, anything is possible.
In a progressive school, students learn to take risks and to be creative.
A child who knows how to build with Legos comes across a large bin of mixed Legos and no instruction manual. The child uses building skills to create something new rather than follow step-by-step directions with a predetermined outcome.
Given crayons and white paper, a child can take a risk and create a drawing that is one-of-a-kind rather than working within the lines of a coloring book. This is the kind of skill-based risk-taking that teachers in progressive classrooms are encouraging every day, across disciplines.
When children take an active role in their learning, they are more fully engaged and experience deeper learning.
Children pose the questions and find the solutions, with scaffolding from the teacher and classmates. They are not afraid to make mistakes. Through frequent assessments and conversations, teachers give students feedback and opportunities to understand their mistakes and learn from them. Students are aware of their own growth, and because they drive their own learning process, they develop confidence in their abilities.
Parents can support their children’s learning by engaging in conversations at home.
Talk to them about what they are doing at school, and listen to the way they describe their work. Ask them open-ended questions and start family projects that are hands-on and have no fixed outcome.
Show them examples of when you take risks in your own work or when you make mistakes and learn from them. We are all engaged in an ongoing learning process, and when children see this, they approach life and school as opportunities to grow rather than being fearful of mistakes.