Risk taking and adolescents

One of the most difficult topics to present a clear strategy around for young people is risk-taking. Managing the fine line between acceptance through conformity and acceptance through risk-taking is incredibly difficult and at times very confusing for young people.

In learning, we know that we must encourage students to take risks, to be brave and prepared to make a mistake. This approach allows students to approach learning with a growth mindset, ready to try things, despite not yet having mastery.  When students really begin to take risks in their learning, they allow their creativity to flow. Rather than look to present only what they think the teacher is looking for, they seek opportunity to ask, to question and eventually create, moving beyond simply being a consumer of knowledge.

St John’s Grammar is strategic in its development of programs, attitudes and explicit teaching that address risk-taking. A concentrated focus on student agency has allowed students to develop their voice with confidence, knowing that there are avenues and opportunities for them to be listened to. This week, School Captain, Ella Kuchel, launched her Student Showcase initiative, an example of the outcomes of a school committed to student agency. Passionate about providing a place where the exceptional work of students can be showcased, Ella has worked with a range of staff to develop a platform through CANVAS for teachers, students and parents to see some of the excellent work of students. To accomplish this, Ella has taken some big risks by stepping outside of the status quo and offering a new perspective. She even launched the page to the staff at a Whole School Staff meeting. Congratulations Ella – a legacy to be very proud of!

And while we want to encourage risk-taking in student learning, we want to protect students/ children from the many dangers in this world. We know that the risky behaviour of young people can be enormously dangerous. The Kid Helpline explains that “learning to be an independent adult involves understanding how to handle risky situations”. However, learning how to handle these situations does not mean that they need to place themselves in situations with heightened negative risks.

The Wellbeing programs at St John’s Grammar provide opportunities for students to develop their knowledge and understanding about how to handle risky situations. This can include explicit teaching about topics such as the dangers of alcohol and drug use, including the recent changes in legislation concerning the supply of alcohol to minors (which parents can learn more about here). Risk of social media are high on our agenda as we seek to equip students to navigate the many negative risks inherent in cyber land.

Discussions with Year 12 students this week focused on avoiding negative risk these holidays by planning their study schedule carefully. Study, relaxation, work, fun, friends, family all need to be given planned time to avoid returning to school having placed themselves under unreasonable stress.

Students have also been reminded about not taking risks with their personal safety when they are in public, including traveling to and from school. Our messaging has focussed on the importance of staying in groups, staying in public areas and remaining alert and aware – which means removing your earphones.

If you would like to learn more about navigating risks with young people there are some wonderful resources available including: https://parents.au.reachout.com/common-concerns/everyday-issues/risk-taking-and-teenagers

I wish you all a wonderful and safe break.

Leonie Harwood

Deputy Principal and Head of Senior School