Getting Risky

Getting Risky
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If you’re a football fan you know that in most cases if your on offense and it’s 4th and 9 it’s time to punt.  Or is it?  The other day I came across this video about the benefits and drawbacks of punting.  Take a look:

To be honest, I’ve always preferred going for it on 4th down versus punting it away, which probably says something about my appetite for risk or my tendency toward optimism.  However, the story behind the story in the case of this coaching technique is that the school allowed the coach the freedom to take a risk in an otherwise written chapter in most football play books.

Of course it’s helpful that the technique has worked out, but imagine the phone calls and emails that flooded the administrator’s office the first time they tried this and didn’t convert on 4th and 9 with their backs against the goal line…or in a playoff game.  Would you be so confident in your coaching staff to let them continue with their plan?  I’d like to think yes, but I have a tendency to lean towards risk.

As a school leader this is a great look into a school’s willingness to accept and value risk taking.  Whether on the field or in the classroom do you promote or punish your community for taking risks?  At my school we’ve been moving our curriculum towards a style based on inquiry and student generated questions and interests.  Of course, this has been challenging in someways because like any change it causes us to move out of our comfort zone.  I think we’re making progress but this is partly do to Punahou’s high tolerance for risk.  Imagine if in addition to telling our teachers to take risks with their curriculum we also judged their performance based on student test scores or chastised the teacher who “just didn’t try hard enough.”

Do you encourage the teachers, administrators, and students around you to take risks?  Do you provide an environment that allows for it?  What innovative and risky project is your school working on?

Author: Andy Aldrich

Andy is a founder of Learn[ed]Leadership as well as a school administrator at Punahou School in Honolulu, HI. In addition to pontificating on ideas in education, Andy stays busy chasing after his daughter and impressing his wife with his big muscles.

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