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No Pain No Gain - Top Global Teachers on Risk-taking and Normalizing Struggle

Don’t try to innovate if you’re not prepared to make mistakes.
By C. M. Rubin
No Pain No Gain - Top Global Teachers on Risk-taking and Normalizing Struggle

Steve Jobs once said that “about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” All innovators feel challenged at different points because it’s just part of the work. So how do we teach youth that struggle is good, working hard is good, looking back on your mistakes is good, and finding new ways to tackle challenging problems is really good because all these things are important parts of our learning? Our Global Teacher Bloggers are pioneers and innovators in fields such as technology integration, mathematics coaching, special needs education, science instruction, and gender equity. They have founded schools, written curricula, and led classrooms in 13 different countries that stretch across every populated continent on earth. These teachers empower and enrich the lives of young people from nearly every background imaginable. This month we asked them: How do we better instill an idea of risk-taking and struggle in students? “Across OECD countries, eight out of ten students reported that their teachers tell them what they have to learn in every lesson, and seven out of ten students have teachers who ask questions in every lesson to check that students understand what they’re learning,” writes Maarit Rossi (@pathstomath). “It seems that we have still lot to do, not difficult changes, so that students learn to notice that success is a chance for everyone.” Read More Craig Kemp (@mrkempnz) describes risk-taking as a “culture of learning” and shares strategies from classrooms around the globe that are helping to normalize struggle including, “support, encourage, model (let them teach the class)”, “encourage teachers to make mistakes so students see it is OK” and “provide plenty of choices to watch their inner genius interpret what to do.” Read More “The young people at EducAid have often overcome extraordinary challenges,” writes Miriam Mason-Sesay (@EducAidSL). How has this been achieved “despite the constant battering of life’s daily difficulties in Sierra Leone?” In EducAid’s “Girl Power Group” program, girls and young women are “taught not only about their rights and responsibilities to equality, but also to each other.” Read More Teach kids to write! says Shaelynn Farnsworth (@shfarnsworth). “If we want students to be risk-takers, persevere through the struggle, and find success in the process then we must model that as the adult in the classroom.” Shaelynn believes there is nothing “more powerful, or more vulnerable, than when a teacher writes in front of their students.” Read More. “Life is not a bed of roses,” writes Rashmi Kathuria (@rashkath). “Instill the idea of risk and struggle by engaging them in activities where they get a scope to use their life skills and strengthen them…when someone goes an extra mile they do more than is expected of them.” Read More. “What if we focus on the process and the journey more than the destination?” writes Jim Tuscano (@jimtuscano). “We also need to design and to align all areas or aspects of learning to support growth mindset. For example, learning activities should give time for students to explore, to work with others, and to always go back and reflect on what they are learning.” Read More. “When you teach about the great characters from history, science and art, be sure to portray the whole stories: the pains as well as the gains, the human side entwined with the brilliance, the challenges along with the glory,” writes Elisa Guerra Cruz (@ElisaGuerraCruz). “When we take failure out of the equation and embrace struggling as part of the journey, learning becomes again the joyous, stimulating gift it was always meant to be.” Read More. Nadia Lopez (@TheLopezEffect) shares strategies that revolutionized how her scholars approached learning, including learning spaces “where risks were applauded,” with “co-operative learning to encourage collaboration” and a scholar-centered approach allowing “each individual to contribute to the classroom dialogue and work towards the goal of completing a task collectively.” Read More. “Schools need to cease their systems of confirming who is not Einstein and start systems and create environments that celebrate the joy that is being oneself and clearly articulating one’s own growth,” writes Richard Wells (@EduWells). “A journey that can be documented and visibly presented to future employers who are crying out for people who show evidence of adaptability and confidence in what they might offer a team or project.” Read More. The Top Global Teacher Bloggers is a monthly series where educators across the globe offer experienced yet unique takes on today’s most important topics. CMRubinWorld utilizes the platform to propagate the voices of the most indispensable people of our learning institutions – teachers. Find out more at

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