In a basic sense, the arts are about saying “I,” and what underlies that risk is some kind of confidence in the self. And this sense of self is at the root of all we are and do….This sense of self serves teachers well every minute they are with children, and if the teachers have it, they know something about how to draw it forth from children. M.C. Powell

Risk by definition involves exposure to danger. It is a double-edge sword that can keep us safe, but it can also hold us back from making changes that really matter. I’ve taken a number of risks in my life and choosing to become a teacher was one of those risks.  I entered in to education at a time when there was a surplus of teachers.  I also chose to study art; neither of those decisions were lucrative choices and those seeking to give me guidance questioned both. And in a world that measures success by bank accounts, perhaps there is some truth in the advice I was given. I believe, however that people tend to learn more and experience personal growth if they take risks, at least that has been true for me.  Each time I took a risk I gained immense confidence and that confidence has served me well in the classroom and beyond.   And throughout all this, the arts have been a tool for supporting my decisions allowing me to tap in to my intuitive abilities as well as logical and linear thought processes that facilitated inner awareness and increased self-knowledge. The arts have also supported me by providing emotional-regulation through both process and reflection.  I also learned more about taking risks with every stroke of a brush, collage or poem. Often the ideas I saw in my minds-eye rarely, if ever, appeared on the page.  The image or poem had a life of it’s own and appeared through it’s own violition, for better or worse. But that was the risk I was willing to take. With the willingness to experiment, explore and to learn from mistakes through artistic expression, risk becomes less frightening and perhaps more approachable.  I’ve encouraged risk-taking in my classes and in so doing, my students have learned to take steps that may be frightening, or intimidating or downright scary. I’ve had this quote pasted in a journal that I’ve carried with me over the years and it became the inspiration for the drawing. “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Anais Nin


When have you taken a risk in your teaching life and how did you grow? What does that look like in art or poetry?  Perhaps the following poem will provide you inspiration.


Your World
A poem by Georgia Douglas Johnson
Words with Wings: A Treasury of African-American Poetry and Art

Your world is as big as you make it.
I know, for I used to abide
In the narrowest nest in a corner,
My wings pressing close to my side.

But I sighted the distant horizon
Where the skyline encircled the sea
And I throbbed with a burning desire
To travel this immensity.

I battered the cordons around me
And cradled my wings on the breeze,
Then soared to the uttermost reaches
With rapture, with power, with ease!

2 thoughts on “Risk

  1. This response and poem towards taking “risk” really got me thinking about all of the personal risks and growth I have taken and seen within my self. We all worry and fear many things in life, like the big independent steps that we must take as we grow older. I have come a long way regarding my character, my education, my beliefs, etc. One should always take risks to progress and learn, and to experience right and wrong.
    Now that I am almost through college, with just a year left, it really hits home that I will soon be a future teacher in art education. It definitely was a risk to choose and decide the career that I wanted to pursue in for my future. Everything I have been learning and have been instructed on, I must now continue to absorb and use to guide me towards becoming the successful teacher I hope to be. I completely fear this, and fear the ‘what if’ regarding my success towards being a teacher. Yes, it is a risk, but is one that I am taking to become the successful person I strive to be, and to evolve and learn new ideas and knowledge through my experiences. This poem gives me a sense of hope and motivation when I read it, and I would hope it does for others as well.

  2. Ironically, the eureka moments we have in life, teaching, or art making all come from the same place. Not a place of comfort or familiarity. Not a place that we’ve been before. The only way we can have a realization, an “AHA” moment, or some kind of epiphany only comes from finding out something we did not previously know. Those moments stick with us forever. This is why Art Education plays such a critical role in developing the “UNstandardized” side of each individual student. If art curriculum is implemented successfully– students make their own decisions and discoveries, with the teacher simply there to guide them. They have time to experiment and time to be technical. They are able to explore and connect new knowledge with previous knowledge. They learn how to be a critical thinkers and hard workers for themselves, not just for scores.

    In my experience, some of the work that I like best are pieces that went a different way then I anticipated. I hate to admit, but usually these were assignments that I avoided, fought, and procrastinated because of the fear that I could not do it, this inevitably lead to many skipped meals and sleepless nights. Sometime during these caffeine, water, and florescent light driven stupor comes a moment of clarity- to stop making every assignment life or death. To just TRY. To just take that risk because no art instructor will ever expect perfection, but they will expect that their students were engaged and active when coming to artistic solutions.

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