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Friday was a double-header. I went cross-country skiing with our fifth graders immediately followed by a session as the subject for a high school drawing class.

The last time I cross-country skied would have been when I was in middle school, and by a stroke of misfortune (for my ego), our intrepid parent blogger Kim Kosmatka was on hand to witness the event. You can see me in the blue pants below, doing my best not to run over any of the kids.

Thankfully, Kim had her lens trained on the kids when I took my spills, and none of them involved running over the legs of a fifth grader.

As we made our rounds through the Marshall trails, I was impressed with the gumption of the students — many of whom had never skied before. We’d go around the corner, several would fall. The better skiers would move around them. A few would stop and offer a hand or a suggestion. We’d go down a hill; a few more would hit the snow … usually face first, legs akimbo. There were a few tears and a lot of “I am awful at this.” But nobody quit.

While the drawing class was a bit quieter and a lot warmer, the atmosphere among the kids was surprisingly similar. Many were out of their comfort zone and felt very self-conscious about their skills. They had only 45-minutes to sketch me and were all working hard. Again, I heard a lot of “I am awful at this” — along with a lot of “Wow, that is good.” I’ve put one sample of a student’s work below.

I was a bit nervous about skiing, but I don’t think there would be any way I would have been able to sketch a portrait — unless a Mr. Smiley drawing would count.

As I walked out of the art room Friday, I could not help but reflect on the amount of risk taking our students do everyday — be it in math, writing, art, or PE. We are continually pushing them to explore new frontiers and to face failure along the way. I don’t think they would be nearly as inclined to take those risks had they been worried about mockery from their peers or unrealistic expectations from their teachers. Thankfully, in both cases there was a level of tutoring and encouragement that supported risk taking rather than punished it. Kudos, all.