Taking Risks

Recently Griffen Stabler, eighth grade English teacher, talked to Middle and Upper School students at our annual Von Kohorn faculty address, about his experience as someone who avoided risks for most of his life.   He gave examples from his childhood and adolescence when he didn’t attempt a class, activity or opportunity for fear of failing. It wasn’t until college that he began to silence his inner critic, get the better of his insecurities, and accept challenges in spite of the very real possibility of not succeeding.

As I listened to Griffen and watched the students taking in his message, I was reminded how we as educators often talk to students about being brave enough to take appropriate risks. We’re not talking about driving fast or being reckless, but about pushing ourselves into uncomfortable situations intellectually; situations where the answers aren’t obvious, it feels as if the material is bigger than we are, and that we might not get it.


Failing in these situations can be a valuable learning experience as long as we know how to reflect and move on. Some of the latest buzzwords around this issue are “resilience” and “grit.” They signify the characteristics of people who succeed in life, not because everything gets handed to them, but because they fall down and have the intellectual and emotional tools to get up, learn from their failure and move on. Research indicates that resilience can be more of a predictor of success than raw talent.

Also as I listened to Griffen talk, I thought about how hard he had to reflect on his life in order to speak about it in front of an audience. Those two actions—self-reflection and public speaking—can feel risky in their own right. Even as he was talking about overcoming his insecurities, he was showing his audience how he has conquered them.

School can be an ideal place for students to learn how to reflect on their lives, face their insecurities, and take appropriate risks that just might propel them into a field or activity they had no idea they would enjoy or be good at. Fortunately, we see it frequently at GFA, thanks to our excellent teachers who have developed their own tools of self-reflection and resilience to model for their students.

Click here if you would like to hear this inspiring talk for yourself.

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