Taking Healthy Risks

There are three recent events percolating in my mind, connected by the idea of healthy risk taking that leads to growth. I had been thinking about the Elementary School Jump For Heart event last Wednesday, as well as about the wonderful performances at the Chinese New Year show, and, what made me able to connect the two was watching my daughter walk confidently across the back garden, without even realizing that one of us wasn’t ten steps away and waiting with open arms.

Jump for Heart is an annual event at INTL*, where elementary students jump rope all together outside, listening to music and sharing their skills. The event is related to fundraising for the American Heart Association, but we put the emphasis on participation and heart health. This year, Susan Brooks led the effort, and was thrilled to report students and teachers alike jumping for the entire time, doing tricks (with Terry Qian leading the charge!), making mistakes, and having a great time. There were even a few teachers complaining of sore calf muscles the next day! For some people, jumping rope is a challenge, and jumping rope in front of the elementary school even more so. Students and faculty alike modeled healthy risk taking – healthy for our hearts, but healthy in terms of taking a chance to make a mistake in the process of learning something new and being a part of the community.

Every year, one of my favorite parts of the Chinese New Year Performance is seeing students shine on stage who might otherwise find something else challenging– like math or spelling or participating in class discussions. I also see usually confident students battling their pre-performance jitters. The performance is another venue for positive risk taking; a place for students (and teachers this year!) to work together to present something of value to the community. This year, they braved a huge stage and an even larger audience, and did a wonderful job. Even a few 1st graders managed a sound glitch with improvisation and great spirit.

Our job as teachers and administrators is to scaffold for children – to provide them the skills they need but also the ability to fall into a safety net without fear or ridicule. We have to do what parents do when babies are learning to walk – hold both their hands, then let them hold one finger, maybe give them a cart to push, then gradually encourage them to take a few steps on their own, until they go toddling across the lawn to get the ball they’ve seen, not even realizing they’re doing it all on their own (of course we didn't have the camera ready, so the photos here are steps along the way). Our teachers at INTL do this scaffolding work in the classroom with the curriculum, but we also let the students see us try, fall down, and keep going, both in and out of the classroom. So a big bravo to all of those who are taking healthy risks and acting as such positive role models for our students!

On a somewhat related note, I wanted to add that all funds raised for the Heart Association this year will be donated in the memory of Alex Saba, our 1st grade teacher Hayat’s husband, who passed away recently. Thank you to all of those who contribute to this effort.

 *In 2020, the International School of the Peninsula (ISTP) formally changed its name to Silicon Valley International School (INTL) to better reflect its bilingual programs, location, and international values.