Gotta Be In It To Win It

Gotta Be In It To Win It

We always encourage our students to take a risk, but when is the last time you took a risk for them? With them?

As I’ve started to revolutionize my classroom, I’ve had to take a lot of risks. I’ve had to put myself out there in ways that I never thought I would because I realize now the things I want to do and have in my classroom will likely never be given to me; I have to the risk and go out and get them!

Sometimes the risks don’t work out, but when they do it’s so worth it.

If you remember, my students started a crowd-funding campaign to change their learning environment. Well, it’s time for an update:

We faced obstacle after obstacle to get the campaign off the ground both online and in my district.

After clearing a lot of hurdles, I got the go-ahead. Unfortunately, the time I had spent getting approval pushed the fundraiser into the summer. As those summer days ticked by, it became apparent my kids and I were going to fall far short of our goal. It seemed we would only raise $400 of our $6500 goal. An Epic Fail… until I got an e-mail.

A few weeks before the fundraiser ended, KI Furniture and Corbett Inc. sent me an e-mail letting me know they were so impressed with my students and what they had done, they wanted to partner with us on some projects and donate furniture to my classroom! Well the furniture arrived last week along with a few surprises for my kids.

KI and Corbett Inc. not only sent amazing desks, but bought my kids from last year, the ones who started the fundraiser, pizza and sent a camera crew to interview them for part of a larger national marketing campaign!

The chairs are amazing and have already changed business as usual in my class, which I will address another day, but the look on my students faces when they walked into my room to their hard-earned furniture, camera crews, and pizza was priceless. The pride they felt when they saw that they had still met their goal despite nothing going as we originally planned and taking way longer than we thought made me proud. Not because they were successful, but because they learned important lessons they won’t find in a textbook; lessons like perseverance, adapting, and change taking time. One student summed it up best when he laid eyes on the furniture, “I though we failed. I guess we didn’t.”

The crowdfunding campaign was a huge risk, but smaller risks can be just as meaningful. A quality, young director, Micheal D. Stern, produced a fantastic version of Poe’s Berenice that I wanted to show my class. The problem was I didn’t know Stern and had read that the short film was only available to film festivals. I tracked Stern down via Twitter where my studentsand I asked him if he would be kind enough to let us screen his film. He couldn’t have been nicer and more excited to send us a copy which arrived digitally a couple hours later. The film was great and kids were happy to have played a part in getting the resource for our class.

I’ll be taking another risk at the end of the month. My students and I have been invited to Tech & Learning’sTech forum in New York. They heard about our Be About It project and student-run news program, Bengal Buzz, and invited us to come present on these passion projects. Even though we haven’t presented yet, this has already been such a positive experience that I put in to do it again at ISTE!

These risks fall outside the curriculum and my job duties, but are so valuable and rewarding I couldn’t imagine not taking them. Even when we fail miserably, we can still take something away from it and grow.

Takeaways are important. I like to find or have a takeaway in everything I do, so here are today’s takeaways:

1. Show don’t tell. When you want to take a risk, don’t go and ask for permission empty handed. Try to complete part of the project before you ask for permission. When I went to convince stakeholders that crowdfunding was legit, my students had already made the video. I was able to show everyone that we were taking it seriously and that the kids were emotionally invested in it. Had I gone empty handed, it would have been much easier to say no.

2. Always make your pitch student-centered. Talk about the benefits and lessons your students will learn, even if things don’t work out, first and often. Knowing they would be depriving students of a valuable learning experience is often enough to get the people in charge to say yes.

3. Recruit your parents. Before I take a risk or ask those in charge for permission, I get parents on board. Often, your students will do this for you. They’ll get excited about your big idea and run home and tell their parents about it, but making that positive contact home about something your excited to do with or for your students, even if it doesn’t work out, builds better relationships. It’s all about relationships.

4. Read How to Win Friends and Influence People. It’s still the best book ever.

Success is contagious. When you and your students have your first victory, it is the best feeling in the world. When other students, parents, teachers, community members hear about your success they will want to be a part of it or want to try their own version of it (Disclaimer: Haters Gonna Hate). Take a risk with and for your kids. You will be pleasantly surprised!

Until Next Time,


cross-posted at Teched Up Teacher

Chris Aviles teaches English at Barnegat High School in New Jersey. He presents on education topics including gamification, technology integration, BYOD, blended learning, and the flipped classroom. Read more at Teched Up Teacher.

Chris Aviles is a STEM teacher, edtech specialist, and president of Garden State Esports. He is also a regular contributor to Tech & Learning.