One of the things we strive to model here at Mountain Vista is proper risk-taking behavior. Now, we don’t mean the kind of risk that leaves you dangling on the end of a bungee cord. Some of us (me) are deadly afraid of heights and speedy descents toward the hard ground. No, I mean the kind of risk-taking that makes you leave your comfort zone. The kind of risk-taking that makes you learn new things, and try out new ideas.
So, we teach seminars on crazy things, and we lead PAL groups in things we’ve always been interested in, and we run FLEX days that don’t always work out like we planned. But, the only way to have great successes is to occasionally have a failure. We try to express that idea to the students: through our example, and through open discussion about our teaching and planning processes.
The goal of all this, of course, is to encourage our students to become risk-takers. A few years ago, I had a student who was waffling between attending a lovely in-state university or the Air Force Academy. Both were options available to him, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to fly halfway across the country to engage in a program with academic and physical rigor well past what that lovely in-state school would require of him. We had spent the last two years giving that young man the space to try new things and do well, and try new things and make mistakes. We like to think that, in the end, learning to make a mistake and CORRECT YOUR COURSE helped him be confident enough to undertake the challenge of pursuing his Air Force dreams.
Too often, gifted and successful students are terrified of MAKING MISTAKES. Mistakes mean you got a question wrong; mistakes mean you flunked a test; mistakes mean you failed. People whose goals revolve solely around avoiding mistakes never take chances. But, people who don’t take chances seldom achieve greatness.
Giving our students a safe place to mess up for two years is one of our greatest goals. We’re here to guide them, talk to them, and catch them when they fall. It is our hope that after two years of leaping off of metaphorical buildings (not real buildings, the MVGS faculty does not suggest or condone base-jumping or any other kind of crazy parkour behavior) with us that they’ll have the confidence to boldly confront mistakes and take chances.