Risks – tell Risky stories

The most innovative school in Norway

Working on a film project in English class
Working on a film project in English class

On November 9th, on the day after the US election, we were awarded the most innovative school in Norway prize. On an otherwise bleak Wednesday, we celebrated that 10 years of systematic work was rewarded. Last week, on December the 14th, we were asked to speak at the annual Christmas gathering for the principals in my district. We were invited to answer the question; “Sandvika high school the most innovative school in Norway, what is the secret.” It is an ironic title since we have in these last ten years tried to share what we do with as many as possible. We have invited teachers to our conferences and have when asked shared our stories with other schools. The problem, of course, is that we seldom are asked to share our practice in our district. When talking to other educators around the world, their experiences are the same.

“We’ve all heard the phrase that “You can’t be a prophet in your own land.” The sad reality is that for a majority of us, this the truth. No matter how much we do outside of work, it just seems that no one listens inside. I worked 7 years in a place where this was my reality. I was the teacher behind my walls because no one listened outside of them. ” Rafranz Davis.

I recently read the articles from Will Richardson and Bruce Dixon on risk-taking in the classroom.

“It is interesting to me that teachers really believe they can’t take risks. How do we help them believe they can and must???” As with many, many things education, I think the first step is to define what we mean by “risk.” I can’t remember where I heard Gary Stager say it or write it, but he observed once that much of what we define as “taking a risk” in the classroom really isn’t. I agree. Is it really a risk to give kids more agency over their own learning and, in the process, learn how to learn? Is it really a risk to allow them to make something that represents their learning and then present it to a real audience? Is it really a risk to let students grapple with questions that don’t have one answer, or questions that the teacher can’t necessarily answer? Is it really a risk to trust kids to use technologies well in the pursuit of learning something or making something that they truly care about?Will Richardson

Actors and film crew hard at work
Actors and film crew hard at work

Will Richardson goes on by saying that even if many teachers are taking risks, these practices are not very transparent. It aligns with the inquiry from my own district. There are many teachers, school leaders, and super-intendants who do not have any clue about what regular practice looks like in their schools.  I think our New Years’s resolution should be to work on transparency and how to solve that challenge. Last Wednesday my recommendation to the county director was to ensure that every school has a school leader responsible for technology and pedagogy in the classroom. That the county makes sure that the schools get together on a regular basis and share best practice. To work on a culture of sharing best practice is a challenge for school leaders. If you try to highlight what teachers are doing in their classrooms, some might feel left out, angry, or even annoyed. For me, the risk I need to take is to continuously work on sharing the great job teachers in my school do with their students every day.

This week we have had a visitor from Bangladesh Ms. Jyoti Rahaman, currently an intern with Unesco. She is writing her Master thesis and will be studying the innovative work of teachers and students at Sandvika high school. Jyoti is currently a student of Global Development (GLOBED) aims to set new standards as an international Master in the field of globalization, education and international development, an Erasmus+ joint master degree coordinated by the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain, and co-supervised by the University of Oslo, Norway, and the University of Malta, Malta.

It is indeed encouraging to me as a school leader to hear her comments about what she is observing at our school. It reassures me that we are on the right track. What still needs to be done is to continue working on sharing that we believe change is imperative and that we can effect it.

We need to keep on taking risks, and that really is not very risky at all.


I would love to hear from you