Teaching Profession Opinion

Risks and Rewards in 2016: A Year in Review

By Starr Sackstein — November 29, 2016 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

What’s life without a little risk? In order to achieve great things, we must continue to push ourselves to the bounds of our comfort in order to pursue greater understanding and depth of knowledge. Whether in relationships, learning or passion pursuits, we must boldly push forward beyond the limits of our fear, grasping adventure and growth as a reward.

2016 was a year of great change for me personally. The risks I’ve undertaken have mostly paid off, but more importantly, I didn’t allow my comfort or fear of failure to keep me from trying new things.

So here are few risks taken that have surely paid off:

  • Participating in the TEDxYouth Event in Burlington, MA. I’m a terrified public speaker. Although it is a steadily growing part of the work I do, speaking in front of large audiences invokes the worst kinds of anxiety in me. Despite that fear, I accepted the generous invitation and began planning for this event. Doing a Ted talk was a bucket list item, so I couldn’t say no despite my fears.
  • Moving to a new school. For me, stagnation can be a killer. Because of my incessant need to keep pushing forward, it was time for me to part ways with my old school. After 9 years and countless fond memories, building programs, watching students go off to college and growing with colleagues, I had reached a plateau in my growth. So many wonderful things happened as a result of my time at WJPS, but it was time for me to move on. Again, extremely nervous about entering a new school, leaving my reputation and connections behind, I took a risk to move to a different school with different needs in the city and try to grow my practice elsewhere.
  • Shifting away from a full-time teaching position. In concert with the above decision to leave my old school, a new position was also in the works. In addition to being the new person, I took on a role as a Teacher Center teacher where I teach a few periods a day, but also facilitate a teacher resource space and help to coordinate PD to support my colleagues. This new role has been a challenge. Figuring out the balance between teaching and providing my students the feedback they need and making time to help my colleagues and school in my coaching/instructional coach role. This balance has been hard to strike, but I have no regrets about leaving the other position. Sometimes you just have to leap and hope you don’t fall flat. The jury is still out on this one.
  • Writing a book with a co-author. This probably doesn’t sound like much of a risk, but for me, writing has always been a solitary experience; one I enjoy most of the time. When Connie Hamilton asked me to write Hacking Homework with her, I said yes but was secretly reluctant about the task. After we met in person over the summer, Connie was able to really put my fears to rest as she and I have a similar work ethic and ended up really enjoying each other’s company. So much collaboration happens online these days that it is sometimes hard to tell what the chemistry will be like “for real.” Fortunately for us, Connie turned out to be like the sister I never had and the book is a wonderful offshoot of that. Sharing ideas was easy and I’m grateful every day that she asked me to work with her.
  • Helping to plan an ECET2 convening. When I was asked to participate in this undertaking I had little to no idea what it entailed. Although I have worked with others in planning the social media strategies for their events, I have never been involved in the nuts and bolts of planning a conference. Fortunately, AnnRose Santoro was the lead in this venture. She made it easy to support her, asking for what she needed along the way and really charting the course for the rest of us. Between Google docs/forms and Voxer, we were in contact often and really made a great experience for the teachers who were there celebrating with us. We were nervous things wouldn’t happen the way we wanted them to, and not everything did, but we still planned and executed a great convening, one I’m proud to have been a part of.

Although there have been countless other daily risks taken as it pertains to assessment reform and conversations had, the above were the most significant risks I took this year. Since I’m always looking to keep pushing forward, standing on the precipice of success and failure, has become a ledge I’m all too acquainted with.

And failure does happen.

And that’s okay. With each unsuccessful risk comes an opportunity for reflection and continued growth.

What risks have you taken this year that have significantly impacted your life? Please share

Related Tags:

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.