Taking creative risks in the classroom

John Spencer’s essay, “What Happens When Teachers Take Creative Risks,” is well worth reading if you’re a teacher. Actually, it’s also worth reading if you’re teacher-adjacent, such as a parent or a student.

I was particularly struck by his initial warning, even though it’s not the point of the essay:

Sometimes teachers don’t have the permission to take creative risks. There are some toxic cultures out there with administrators who obsess over student test scores and who shame teachers publicly. These actions make it hard to feel the permission to make mistakes and fail forward. By contrast, other administrators invite innovation. They encourage teachers to step outside of their comfort zones and experiment with new strategies. The extent to which you take creative risks will vary significantly on your school culture.

I am just so glad that I never had to teach in such an environment—not at Lincoln-Sudbury, not at The Phoenix School, not at Weston High School, of course not at The Saturday Course or Crimson Summer Academy, and not even at Boston University Academy. If you are similarly lucky, go read Spencer’s essay. Particularly note his distinction between failure and failing. No one wants failure, but failing can be productive.

And if you have fears and doubts, those are of course perfectly natural, as Spencer illustrates:

Categories: Teaching & Learning