At CCSC we talk a lot with students about the importance of bringing a growth mindset to the classroom. In his reflection on his practice, math and computer science teacher Ricky Richardson writes about how he helps his students see that taking risks and making mistakes is an essential part of the learning process. His years of training as a jazz musician may have informed his own growth mindset, as jazz improvisation requires the courage to take risks.
Why I Teach: Ricky Richardson
One of the toughest moments I’ve dealt with as a teacher is the silence right after I’ve asked a tough question. It can be in incredibly stressful moment for a student. “What if I’m wrong? What if my question is stupid? How do I even say what I’m thinking?” Those thoughts have crossed my mind in many lectures as a student, and I know that my students will wrestle with similar thoughts.
Somewhere along the line, being right in the classroom, being seen as smart or clever, became the most important part of learning. But learning is a gradual process. No one learns and masters a concept and all its implications in a day. I want students to take risks. I want them to ask questions. I want them to struggle and persevere to solve problems. I want them to feel that my classroom is a safe space where they can fail and learn from that failure to create better strategies and become better thinkers. That’s my measure of classroom success.
When students leave my classes, I hope they feel like they can solve any problem that comes their way, no matter how difficult it is or how long it takes. To become courageous in their scholarship, that is my wish for my students. And I will challenge, advise, and encourage them each day in order to give them many opportunities to develop that confidence.
A native of Memphis, Mr. Richardson is a graduate of MIT, where he double-majored in math and music. He teaches pre-calculus and computer science and advises 11th grade students.