In recent years, the term “risk-taker” has been mentioned more and more in educational conversations. It makes sense. After all, we want students to take risks in their learning. Whether that means enrolling in the more challenging classes or not using a PowerPoint presentation (again) to represent their findings. Since we know how powerful it is to be a model for our students, I began to ask myself: Am I modeling what it is to be a risk-taker?
So in May 2018, I decided to take a risk and apply for the Google Certified Innovator Program.
However, I soon discovered coming up with an innovative idea was more difficult than I anticipated. I intended to come up with an idea over the school break, but being away from my students left me in an inspiration drought. I reached out to a few people in my Professional Learning Network who had participated in similar programs for insight into their creative process. Speaking with them brought to my attention the Design Thinking Process and highlighted the steps I needed to take. But when the new school year began in August, I still had nothing to submit; and the deadline was fast approaching.
Thankfully, being back in the classroom provided the creative spark I needed. I shared my decision to “take a risk” and apply for the Google Certified Innovator Program with my students; along with my struggle to come up with said innovation. They were extremely supportive; expressing confidence that I would think of something amazing and be accepted. Sure enough, within a couple of weeks, I had my innovative idea and a plan.
But you know what they say about even the best laid plans.
I decided to make an animation to present it. Nevermind that I had no idea how to animate. Over the years, I'd seen students make countless animations and thought it would be easy. The notion of asking any of these incredibly supportive––and talented––students for help never dawned on me. Well, you can imagine what happened next. I created the worst animation that you probably will never see.
And so, on one September evening in the year 2018, I found myself with only a few hours left to enter a submission and nothing worth submitting. I had been so certain I could create a simple animation, that I had no Plan B. Yet, what bothered me the most was knowing the next day, I would have to tell my students that I had failed. Not because my idea wasn't chosen but because of my poor planning.
In that moment of defeat, a couple of students decided to stop by and say hello. When they asked how I was doing I couldn't help but give a truthful answer: terrible. I then confessed how because of my non-existent animation skills I had nothing to submit to the Google Innovators Program, and the deadline was only hours away.
These incredible students were not dissuaded by my defeatist attitude. They refused to let me give up and helped me shoot a video to present my idea. The video was the best we could produce given our time constraints but was in no way something anyone would consider worthy of consideration. Despite knowing full well that I was not going to be accepted for the program, I submitted my application with minutes to spare.
That night, I went home feeling like a complete and utter failure; both as a role model and as a risk-taker. One of the students must have sensed this. Later that evening, I received an email from them. They told me they loved my idea and felt privileged to have been able to help me. Even though I may not be accepted, I should be proud of my idea and that I had tried.
Isn’t that the real lesson we want our students to learn when it comes to risk-taking? We want them to try. Taking a risk does not guarantee success, but it can provide a helpful learning experience. For me, I learned animation is hard, and now that I think about it, so is video editing.