The Courage to Teach – Lloyd Rieber

This is a photograph of my son-in-law, Kelly, taken by my daughter, Rebecca. Yes, Kelly is about to jump off a bridge — the Perrine Bridge in Idaho to be precise. Kelly is a base jumper — a sport similar to skydiving, but where the person parachutes from the tops of tall structures or cliffs.

Base Jumping

Most people who see the photograph are a bit frightened by it. Well, of course. Kelly is about to do something that few people would dare. But if you study the photograph, you’ll notice he looks determined and focused, not frightened. There is a look of confidence about him. He is also very prepared. Kelly is taking a calculated risk, but one he feels is worth taking because of the exhilaration he will get from doing it. Jumping off a bridge is a courageous thing to do.

It also takes a lot of courage to teach. For a new teacher, just stepping into the classroom and walking toward the front of the room takes courage. For an experienced teacher, trying something new can be equally scary, especially if it involves technology. Trying a new technique or activity for the first time, especially when it relies on some piece of hardware or software, can feel a little like you are about to jump off a bridge.

But, there is nothing to compare to the exhilaration of teaching well. The feeling of pride, satisfaction, and accomplishment lingers on for days. My advice is: Be prepared, but be bold. Do so, and your fear will be soon be replaced with the rush of adrenaline.

So, I see the photograph as a metaphor for experienced teachers who dare to take risks. It’s easy to stay with the known, the comfortable. But trying a new technique or approach, or a new technology, takes courage. Yes, there is a chance of failure, but most of the time, things work out and then comes that feeling of having done something new, wonderful, and better. You will learn from the experience, as will your students. This is what innovation in teaching and technology means to me.

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