I've really been thinking recently about adventure mindset and how it connects to our current circumstances in education. In reading blogs, listening to podcasts, and considering my own mindset, I've come to the conclusion that this mindset is what many of us need in order to move forward and innovate so that we are able to impact and engage today's learners.
It's not a secret that I love words and I love to know what they mean and how they should be used. Adventure is defined as "an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity." Upon reading the definition, I immediately thought, "That doesn't sound like a good idea." It was the word 'hazardous' that was causing concern. That word can stir up fear or concern for those of us in education. We are not looking to be a part of hazardous situations and tend to prefer the antonyms to the word such as safe and secure. However, as I continued to explore the words, I found that hazardous actually means 'risky'. And, let's be honest, risky is what we need right now.
Taking risks is a big part of adventure mindset and a big part of being an educator for today's learners. It's the willingness to take risks and try new things that will create an educational experience that our learners actually invest in rather than one that they simply endure. So, words like adventure and hazardous are probably words that we should begin to use often. I would like to make it clear that there is a difference between intentional risk-taking and haphazard risk-taking. Intentional risks are thought out and considered before moving forward. Barriers are identified and even planned for. Haphazard risk-taking is aimless and dependent on chance...not what we're going for here.
As I begin to consider how to break down the adventure mindset in education, I immediately thought about the willingness to go BEYOND...
...beyond our circumstances.
...beyond our comfort zones.
...and beyond our assumptions.
Let me explain. I love this quote, "Stop staring at mountains. Climb them instead. Yes, it's a harder process but it will lead you to a better view." (Anonymous). Often times, our circumstances can be overwhelming and seem impossible to overcome. However, if we are willing to look beyond the circumstances and beyond the obstacles, we see the finish line, the reward, the outcome of what we are trying to accomplish.
Comfort zones are nice and cozy. It can be easy to become so comfortable that we don't want to leave that comfort zone. The problem with that is that it is beyond the comfort zone that innovative solutions and sustainable change reside. Going beyond our comfort zones allows us to find these things and so much more. It's simply a matter of considering what's comfortable, what's not, and how we can use BOTH to create change.
Assumptions can cause us, as educators, to miss opportunities. If we assume our students can't do something or won't do something, we might be missing an opportunity for them to deeply understand content as a result of application. If we assume we will be told no or that our idea will not be valuable, we might never share something that would've changed our campus or district for the better. Consider a perspective beyond your assumptions. When you find yourself making an assumption, ask yourself, "But, what if I'm wrong?".
So, let's talk about an adventure. What's involved? How can we intentionally consider this mindset within our current circumstances?
"A ship in harbor is safe but that is not what ships are built for." ~ John Augustus Shedd
What does this have to do with education? I would say, "Lesson plans are safe, but that is not what teachers are built for." We are built to design meaningful learning experiences. Maybe, "Worksheets are safe, but that is not what learners are built for." Learners are built to experience learning by doing. Do you see the difference?
Below are six things that should be considered when preparing for and setting out on an adventure. Consider how you might use these as a road map for your own adventure as you set out to explore our new educational landscape.
1. Identify your destination. It's always important to know where you are going. Where are you setting out to go? How will you get there?
2. Gather what you need to know. Being prepared with necessary information, tools and strategies will ease anxiety and fear. Do you need to collaborate with a colleague, listen to a podcast, or find blog posts regarding your destination?
3. Acknowledge possible barriers/failures. While it isn't always possible to identify or predict ALL of the barriers or failures that lie ahead, being prepared for some of them will help you feel better prepared and ready to overcome. What might go wrong? How will we overcome that particular barrier? What support will we need?
4. Take the first step. This is big. Considering an adventure and actually going on an adventure are two different things. What is the first step? How will you find the courage to begin?
5. Take risks and focus on growth. As the adventure begins and continues, it's important to focus on intentional risk-taking and growth. Focusing on goals can be overwhelming right now. Instead, find those small wins and acknowledge progress when it is achieved. What is the risk in this experience? What impact will it have on me as the educator? What impact will it have on my learners? What did we do today to move the needle forward?
6. Make purposeful reflection a priority. Reflection is ALWAYS a good idea. Knowing what you've done and how it went is what allows us to make decisions moving forward. As with any good adventure, it's important to ask yourself: What went well? What didn't go well? How has it changed my perspective?
Adventure mindset...it works, doesn't it? Seeing our current circumstances as an adventure rather than a challenge changes everything. It has the potential to impact us as educators as well as our learners. So, as we prepare to climb this difficult mountain together, let's remember, it's going to be hard. But, the reality is, it will lead us to a much better view.