Embrace Risk-Taking Language
How is the idea of risk spoken about in your school? Take the time to notice the phrases about risk that individuals use. Examples might be “minimizing the risk,” “running the risk,” “reducing the risk,” “risk-prone,” “risk-averse,” “balancing the risks,” “spreading the risk,” “worth the risk,” “focused risk,” “fear of risk,” “risk excitement,” and “risky actions.” The central tenet of the PLC leadership response to failure, either student or adult, is a paradox:
To risk nothing is to risk everything.
To not try new things, to not create opportunities to fail, is to stop becoming a true learning organization.
Does your risk-taking vocabulary declare, “Let’s learn from our failures, let’s learn from our mistakes, let’s learn from our effort, and let’s grow together”? The PLC growth mantra should be, “We may not know how to do this new task right now, but together, with time and effort, our PLC team will learn how to do it and do it well.” And so will our students.
For example, take a close look at the cultural mindset of all tests and quizzes given in your school. Is your school a place where error and risk taking is embraced, expected and spoken of as a positive aspect of learning? Take a look at the language that is used by the adults and students in your school, anytime students and teachers make an effort to try... try to take action that is newer, harder, different means there will be risk. It is our response to that risk that matters most.
Ask, do the adult messages in our school promote or detract from a culture for focused and safe risk taking by the faculty, staff, and students? Is growth and improvement language a cultural norm in your area of school leadership? PLC leaders monitor for and promote positive risk-taking language. As we get into May, this is a good time of the year to reflect back, and assess the risk -taking language for your school community.
You can do a temperature check on the risk-taking emotions that are generally a result of the change efforts in your school. Are they positive or negative? Then look at the language people speak...it is never should we risk - it is how can we risk well? how do we minimize the negative emotions and maximize the positive emotions? And as importantly, how do we talk about it - every day?