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  • Laura Sarsten and Pam Koutrakos


This post was written by consultants Laura Sarsten and Pam Koutrakos.

September seems to creep up on us faster and faster each year! As August comes to a close, it is very possible to feel a touch of the “end-of-summer blues.” But with every ending comes a new beginning, and we can take these last couple weeks to reignite our learning passions, redefine our goals with excitement, and make the commitment to welcome September as we take on new risks! In our 3-part blog series on risk-taking, we will share thoughts and ideas about developing, sharing, and maintaining a mindset where challenge is not only welcomed, but actively sought.

The start of the school year offers us an opportunity to explore new pieces of ourselves as teachers and learners. As with all explorations, there are risks. If one is mountain climbing; there is always the steeper path he/she could take – if snorkeling; there is always the chance to explore the deeper water. Both of these scenarios may seem initially frightening. However, when we commit to taking the rockier terrain we soar to new heights and when we dare to dive into the deeper ocean, we discover new worlds we didn’t know existed….. We see, feel, and ultimately, experience more. The same can be said of the teaching and learning happening in our classrooms. When we make the commitment to try new (and possibly even slightly intimidating practices), we all benefit: our students will witness, feel, think and experience more and so will we. Letting go of old practices can be difficult, but it also frees up space for the new.

Helen Keller once said, “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all.” Each of us may see and approach risk-taking differently. For some, it may feel risky to hang a student-created anchor chart with less than perfect handwriting. For others, it may mean starting this school year without formal reading logs, inviting individual students to select books they are interested in reading, or asking a colleague to read a professional text together. One of the most exciting aspects of finding adventure in our work is that there are endless possibilities we may seek. When we take risks, there is no way to predict a definite outcome. We can find thrill in purposeful challenges and enjoy the journey of these new ventures. We can welcome and intentionally seek learning challenges for ourselves and our students.

The energy of these upcoming first few days with our students is exhilarating. Some of the most memorable moments are of watching our students first wander into our classroom with expectant eyes and curious minds. When those wondering minds make their way into their learning space on that first day, it is essential we are sending a powerful purposeful message. We want to communicate that in our classrooms, our learning identities will be discovered and nurtured and our choices will be listened to and honored. We will co-create a shared space to think, grow, and explore learning adventures. If we choose to redefine engagement in both our professional lives and our classrooms, we can all maintain the “learner’s high” throughout the year. Our intentions will exude purpose and hope. We can feel excited to not only welcome risks, but intentionally seek out new challenges and experiences. We invite you and your students to join us in ways that make sense and excite each of you!

Laura & Pam will be continuing this blog series on risk taking. Upcoming posts will include suggestions for “hows” and “whens” of risk taking throughout the school year. Please stay tuned.

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