Friday, January 13, 2012

Risk by Mandy Richey

The following is a guest article written by Mandy Richey, GAC JH Academic Dean. It so spoke to me that I just had to share it here. If you want to contact Mandy directly with your comments, you can send an email to

I'm crazy about reality TV. I'll watch almost any program about any kind of people including ice road truckers, hoarders, and housewives. But I have a specific affection for the competitors on Top Chef and Project Runway. Maybe I like the time crunch under which competitors must compete. Maybe I like those shows because I like food and fashion. Or maybe I like the fact that calamity is likely and the competitors have to "make it work!" I'm not sure why I like those specific shows so much, but give me a rainy afternoon and a marathon on Bravo TV and I am set.

I won't pretend that these TV shows teach one the great mysteries of life. I will say that I have learned something about taking risk while watching Top Chef and Project Runway. In an ever changing culinary and fashion world, chefs and designers are forced to change, evolve, and stay relevant. If they aren't willing to take a risk then — to paraphrase Heidi Klum — one day they're in, and the next day they're out. Big risk may lead to a big mistake OR big risk may lead to a big payoff. But chefs and designers in the televised competition — and the real world — will never know if they don't take the risk…

Is there an educational lesson here? I think so. Some would say that a child's education is too important for teachers to take risks . I disagree. The United States Educational system is floundering (see today's Huffington Post article which reports that the American educational system is "average" -- and we are feeling the effects. But GACS is NOT average and we aspire to greatness. We must do something different in regards to our teaching to get different, better, and greater learning from our students. As Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum say in their bestseller That Used to be Us… "Average is over."

So let me encourage you to take a risk. Do something different. Teach a reading or writing skill you haven't before. Use an online digital resource that is cutting edge. Allow students to create and communicate using the most advanced technology. Take a risk. Will it work out perfectly in your classroom the first time you do something new? I doubt it. Do I expect greatness the first time students attempt an alternative skill? Not even close. Am I going to be mad at you if things are a little crazy in your classroom as you and your kids learn? Only if the children are harmed. :)

For real… average is over. Take a risk.