Risk and the Gifted Child

This morning I read a great article by  Jim Delisle about risk taking and risk making. The topic iself, is something I talk about to my students. My students, like a lot of other gifted chilren, don’t like to take risks. If they do, it will be in an area they feel the most comfortable with. Most of the times its in an area where they feel that they won’t fail, or they can’t see clearly what the outcome will be. Sometimes they won’t take a risk becuase they aren’t sure it will be perfect.

Jim points out in his article there is a difference between risk-taking and risk-making. According to Jim, ” In risk-taking, someone is often pushing you to accept a risk (“Wouldn’t you like to learn to ski so that you can join the rest of us on winter weekends?”) that was not on your personal agenda; in risk-making, you are the person doing the pulling(“Gee, I’d really love to learn how to ski!”).”  After I read that, I had to really think to myself, “as a teacher, am I making my students risk-takers?” To be honest, I have to believe that I am making my students more risk-takers than risk-makers. It is more of me pushing them to do something out of their comfort zone. When in fact I should be doing the latter. I should be encouraging them to be risk-makers. I want them to do the pushing of themselves outside of their comfort zone.

This is a whole new concept for me. To be honest I don’t know how to change this in my classroom. Luckily, Jim has some ideas that I could use in my classroom. I will highlight three that I believe that I could incorperate into my classroom. (Feel free to check the link at the top for his whole article. Its a great article and worth the read.)

“Someone needs to explain to children the distinctions between risk taking and making, asking them to recall situations where one of the two was more in evidence. Then, you can begin a discussion of the “comfort level” one feels in each situation.” 

This is a great starting point. Next week, I am going to sit down with my students and talk about the difference between risk-taking and risk-making. I want them to know the difference. I want them to see where their comfort zone ends and where risk-making begins. I believe this will be a great way for my students to segment into their current projects and try something they want that is considered  risk-making.

“The best people to convince gifted children that perfection isn’t all it’s cracked up to be may not be parents (or, for that matter, any adult). Instead, think of using the advice and “peer wisdom” of a child who is two-four years older than your child. This “near peer” usually has more credibility than does an adult who, from the child’s view, went to school while the Earth was still cooling. So…bring in the reinforcements: near peers can entice children to take and make risks in productive and meaningful ways.”

I have always thought peer review was a good way to get students to discuss their work. I have never thought about having students discuss risks. I plan on using some students in my 8th grade “near peers”  to talk to my students in the 7th grade about the risks they have done, and what they think the 7th graders could do. After thinking about it, sometimes it takes someone who isn’t in the forrest that can pick out the trees.

“Adults talk a good game about the benefit of taking risks, yet how well do they model this behavior? For example, how often do you take on a challenge in an area where you have no expertise or little obvious interest? If the answer is “not very often”, consider the message this inactivity might be sending to your child.”

I try to be a good role model in my classroom. I try to use the media that I am asking my students to use. For example, if I ask my students to use Wevideo or Prezi, I try to present the unit to them in that form so they can see what a finished product looks like. But, being a risk-maker, I don’t think that I have really model risk-making. The only exmaple of risk-making is that I have presented at and preparing to present at the  OAGC Teacher’s Academy conference. I always tell my students that an audience wants to learn something or be entertained. So their presentations should match how they want the audience to feel. We do a lot of presentations in my class, and I try to give feed back to my students. So I now plan on giving my students portions of my presentations to give me some feedback.

What do you think about this concept of risk-taking and risk-making? Have you had this kind of conversation with your children or your students? I would like to hear what your opinions about this.


One thought on “Risk and the Gifted Child

  1. Jennifer

    I love this concept! It really does put enrichment learning in the power of the students, doesn’t it? That is what we want to foster: minds that are prepared and desire to explore their world. Utilizing “near peers” for “peer wisdom” is an excellent idea to discuss the advantages of risk-taking, and thereby, a discussing on how to CREATE risks to achieve even more greatness.


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