Taking a Responsible Risk

“I haven’t really done it before, but it sounded fun and I wanted to try something new.”
–        Grade 3 student at her first yoga class

Lots of responsible risks are being taken in the colourful corridors of KCS these days. New students arrived to face the unknown; outdoor education trips tore older students away from the comforts of home; auditions for the musical took place last week; try-outs for teams started the first week of school; public speaking and leadership projects have already begun; and new clubs have tempted students to take a chance, sometimes with the serenity of the 8-year-old at yoga, sometimes not.

Truth is, this is the most popular of the Habits at KCS so far, among students that is (‘Show self-control’ would be tops for teachers, I’m guessing). If you were at Curriculum Night, you might recall the story I shared of the grade one student who told her classmate to “take a responsible risk” and try some grapes and oranges. Having been a picky eater, I know the challenge that can be. Last year, we also had a group of grade sevens who came up with the leadership project called “Get Out of Your Comfort Zone”, urging anyone in the school to get up at assembly and showcase a talent. I also learned how this Habit was leveraged by some grade 8 students during their recent trip to Kinark. He and his classmates were told they couldn’t play Truth or Dare, so they changed the game to ‘Share what you know’ or ‘Take a responsible risk’. Hoping they didn’t permanently muddle the intention behind the Habit, I have to admire their ingenuity.

Why does it resonate so? The October National Geographic has an interesting response. Its main article is on “The New Science of the Teenage Brain”. While we’ve learned a lot about the upheaval of the maturing brain, and the ensuing “neural gawkiness” that either bemuses or bewitches those of us left in a teen’s wake, current thinking explains why the teen brain is perfectly equipped, at least evolutionary-wise. It all makes sense. Over the eons, teenagers have always been at a stage in life where they need to chart their own path. They need to forsake the comforts of childhood, in preparation for the adult world they must face alone. Selection favoured teens who took the risks that led to successful independence (ideally, the risks were responsible…). Society needs individuals who have the courage to take a chance, whether it’s to walk upright, fight a worthy rebellion, or lead the next disruptive innovation. It has to start in the teen years, in the same way walking starts with toddlers.

I could go on about why taking responsible risks matters, but National Geographic says it better.

The fact that it explains that which befuddles us makes it all the more worth reading. And the next time your child takes a responsible risk, think of how this places him or her in the company of all humankind, on our collective evolutionary quest. At least, it might help you bear it.

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