Monday, August 16, 2010

Don't be careful, you'll hurt yourself!!

In recent months risk has been a focus of some of the work of ELP, Wendy reveals a little insight into this work she has been sharing with teachers around NZ.

In a climate of increasing regulation and media hype it is vital that teachers stand back and reflect on the current notions of risk management. These risk averse views can, in the words of Michael Unger, create some very serious longer term problems, “Odd as it may sound, there is a connection between all the security we offer children and why kids behave violently, do drugs, and take risks with their bodies, minds, and spirits.” Take time to read Michael Unger’s book Too Safe for Their Own Good: How Risk and Responsibility Help Teens Thrive, I am sure you will find this a most worthwhile read as both a teacher and a parent in dealing on the day to day level with issues of risk.

Yes, the world is full of risks. Some are good risks and some are bad. Some would say, as indeed Beck does, that the society we now live in is “no longer concerned with attaining something good, but rather than preventing the worse?”. As teachers we need to turn this around in our early childhood settings. Children need to learn from a very young age how to both recognise and respond to risks in their environment. Risks provide a fabulous opportunity to learn. The struggle is important, valuing the struggle is important. It is through struggle and endeavour that we build our skills and experience and strengthen our learning. As Carol Dweck says, “You can see how the belief that cherished qualities can be developed creates a passion for learning... The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives“. Carol Dweck’s book entitled Mindset: The New Psychology of Success is a must read for all teachers. In my opinion every educational setting in the country should purchase this book.

It has the potential to change lives and minds! We as teachers need to consider these ideas in relation to providing opportunities for risk and responsibility. In the words of Gever Tulley "...there are aspects of danger in virtually everything we do, the trick is to learn how mastery actually minimizes danger. Walking is dangerous when we start as babies, but we persevere and it becomes safe. Next we learn to negotiate stairs. Why stop there? Why not practice and become proficient at walking on the roof or walking on a tightrope?” Listen to Gever Tulley on, I think his lectures would provide a great starting point for a parent or staff discussion group. It is useful to consider the freedom that so many of us had as children as we explored the world beyond our homes. So many of us appear to have brought into the notion that our streets are dangerous. This is not the reality, the most dangerous places for our children are in fact their homes. The statistics show this very conclusively. Many children are no longer experiencing a world of challenge and risk. We are turning a generation of children into ‘bubble wrap children’, we need to work with families to provide environments that are rich in opportunities for children to fail and to go on to pick themselves up and have another go. Giving children opportunities to learn their limits and how to bounce back so that they build resilience and persistence. It is through these pathways that children will strengthen a growth mindset.


nadine said...

Thanks Wendy, this post really highlights the importance of children taking risks and becoming confident. I am just writing a learning story for a child who, everyday shows me another 'trick' on the swing, and she explained the importance of risk taking quite well. She said,

"Well, I know that I am a little bit quite good on the swings, so everyday I try and do another trick. It can be a bit hard sometimes and I have to try lot of times and I have to use my arms and it hurts my muscles a little bit. I'm a bit scared sometimes, like when I'm upside down. Sometimes I do so many tricks that I feel like a monkey!"

Very well put, I thought!

Karuna Kumar said...

Thanks Wendy for posting this article. I hope this will be very helpful to all our staff who are not very confident risk takers and at the moment we have a group of children who like climbing the tree that at the edge of our play ground. Most of our chidren are Pacific Islander and mind you they do not fear of any dangers,they have found another way of taking physical challenge of climbing tree.We have all these other active and physical activities everyday but the children are moving, I would say they are moving belond their limits to challenge the adults that what they are capable of doing but its all part of their learning and development we early childhood teachers need to look through the 'lense'.

Lynda said...

Relishing Risky Play .Thanks Wendy,
as usual you had me on the edge of my seat with enthusiasm ,and I left tonight feeling empowered and some what liberated by you. As I left I reflected on where we have come from and where we are today .Over the years we have become more and more conservative with our outdoor environments many of which are looking more like "house and garden " play grounds than the wonderful wild/ junk places that I remember in my childhood .I was born in Fiji and spent most of my childhood there and like you my early memories were of the freedom we had to explore .We went outside in the morning and only came indoors to eat and sleep I think.It is probably the reason I am passionate about outdoor environments.I do not remember much about school in Fiji although I was there till I was 10. What I do remember is the wonderful outdoor environment that our mother and father allowed us to free range in.Thank you for that reflection .
I really enjoyed seeing what other centres are doing, particularly the NZ ones.I guess the challenge for us is to be courageous while working within those damned regulations eh?