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Risk Taking and Right Answers
A colleague of mine has the following quote at the bottom of her email, which I find quite thought-provoking: “Teach children what to think and you limit them to your ideas. Teach children how to think and their ideas are unlimited.” (Sandra Parks)
This simple statement is at the heart of the complex nature of educating a student for the world into which he or she will enter, which is very different than educating for the present in which we live. Consider, for a moment, that a student entering kindergarten this fall will graduate from high school in 2028 and a four-year university in 2032 – in the fourth decade of the 21st century.
This is a future that is still unimagined; however, what I do know is that foundational to success will be the ability to think creatively and take intellectual risks – wondering, theorizing, and experimenting as new ideas are generated and tried. These characteristics, however, must be purposefully developed through intentional environments and teaching that stress the process of learning and investigation and in which children are able to learn free of the constraints of always being “right”.
Our students will encounter many questions in their lives and careers, and what happens when there are no right answers? What if there are many right answers? Without question, our children face a future in which the questions will not have a single right answer and the challenges will span many disciplines, requiring creative and innovative thinking – and intellectual curiosity. The early childhood and elementary years are the time for children to begin developing these skills – questioning, hypothesizing, investigating, being comfortable with the unknown – to learn to take intellectual risks that lead to a “can do” attitude and new understandings.
We refer to this type of learning as inquiry, and through this we help children to develop their ability to reason, think critically, discover, and make connections. In this upcoming year, I am excited that our students will encounter new information and will integrate it into their current understanding – all in a school environment that invites and supports the process of thinking and celebrates creativity and intellectual risk taking.
Head of School