Weighing Out the Risks

We always hear how important it is to take risks, but how do we know if these risks are worth taking or not? In their book, Empower, John Spencer and A.J. Juliani speak about the importance of taking the leap in order to empower our studentsGeorge Couros says that we should always evaluate risks by asking ourselves what is best for this learner. If the risk has a potential of creating a new and better learning experience for our students, then it should be a go. We need to use our professional knowledge and judgement in order to weigh out what risks are worth taking and which ones should be left untouched (calculated risk). Yesterday,  I listened to a very thought provoking podcast (Don Wettrick‘s StartUpEd podcast episode 32: Creativity, Mindset and the Future with Seth Godin) which pushed my thinking on so many levels. I was surprised by how Seth defined risk:

“risk has a very specific meaning. And what it means is that something that’s risky is more likely to have a negative outcome than something that’s not risky.”

Upon first reflection, I was taken back. How could this definition be accurate in education if we so strongly encourage everyone (educators and students alike) to be risk takers. But after reflecting further, everything started making more sense. If we see risk taking as one of the most crucial elements to help shift education, then maybe the true risk is not taking risks at all. Maybe the true risk, if we go by Seth’s definition, is to continue doing what we’ve always been doing, because isn’t that more likely to have a negative outcome than if we try new things in order to better our practice and better our students’ learning experiences?

Next, I decided to google the definition of “risk” and liked what Wikipedia had to offer:

Risk is the potential of gaining or losing something of value.[1] Values (such as physical healthsocial status, emotional well-being, or financial wealth) can be gained or lost when taking risk resulting from a given action or inaction, foreseen or unforeseen. Risk can also be defined as the intentional interaction with uncertainty.[2] Uncertainty is a potential, unpredictable, and uncontrollable outcome; risk is a consequence of action taken in spite of uncertainty.[3]

Risk perception is the subjective judgment people make about the severity and probability of a risk, and may vary person to person. Any human endeavor carries some risk, but some are much riskier than others.[4]

I love that: “the potential of GAINING or LOSING”.

I often find myself taking what I’m learning in my professional life and transferring it over to my personal life in order to try to make sense of it, in a different context. This lead to me reflect upon risks that I’ve taken in my life that weren’t directly linked to teaching.

It was February 14th, 2014. I was at the hospital for an early ultrasound, I was 9 weeks pregnant. Yes, it was Valentine’s Day, and it was the day that my world changed. I went into the ultrasound room with the tech while my husband patiently waited outside. The tech did her thing, while I stared at the ceiling waiting for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, my husband was asked to come in so that the tech could to show us a few images that she had taken during the scan. As my husband walked in, the tech said “I would like to show you some pictures of your babIES”. Plural. I was carrying twins. I didn’t know how to handle this news. I cried. A lot. Over the next few days, it seems like that’s all I did. I was paralyzed by fear. I was overwhelmed by how this drastically changed how I had pictured my life. You see, from the very beginning of our relationship, my husband and I had a deal. He wanted two kids while I wanted three. The consensus was that if our first two children were of the same sex, we would have a third. So, with two boys, we took a risk and tried again. And then, this happened. Not just a 3rd child, but a bonus one came too.

Once the news had settled, although we were still very scared, our emotions shifted towards excitement. We planned to celebrate the twins by having a gender reveal party in order to announce to our families and close friends what we were having. The week before the party, we headed to the hospital again for the standard 20 week ultrasound (where we would be able to find out the sexes of our babies). Seeing as I was now a high risk pregnancy because I was carrying multiples, the ultrasounds were done by a nurse and were now called fetal assessments (and happened VERY frequently once I reached 20 weeks). My husband and I joked around with the nurse saying that seeing as I was carrying twins, our odds of having a least one girl in there increased. The ultrasound showed otherwise though: two more boys! But, that was the least of our worries. Not long after the fetal assessment was over, the doctor came in and explained that one of our babies had a condition called duodenal atresia. We were told that this condition meant an obstruction in the duodenal which results in increased amniotic fluid during pregnancy (polyhydramnios) and intestinal obstruction in newborn babies. But this still wasn’t all. We were also told that duodenal atresia is often linked with down syndrome. Now, we had several risks to weigh, while using our own knowledge and judgement in order to make the best decision for our family (but none of this was easy). We took the next few days to look into everything and then decide on something that made sense to us.

Without going into too many details on all of the options that were presented to us, my husband and I decided that we were going to go forth with an amniocentesis test in order to determine if our baby did in fact have down syndrome or not. This test certainly came with many risks, but these risks were ones we felt we needed to take so that we could prepare ourselves for our future. These risks also outweighed, in our eyes, the risks of doing the other options presented to us. This test was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done in my life, and the next 24 hours that followed were equally as scary (because one of the risks with this tests was that the small poke through the amniotic sac could lead to the water breaking). That test happened on a Thursday, and I rested for the next 24 hours. I was back on my feet just in time for our gender reveal party, which we decided to still have because we knew that celebrating these two peanuts was important, no matter the state of their health.

A week later, I got a phone call during my lunch break and found out that our baby didn’t have down syndrome. Part of me was relieved, but I still knew that there were going to be many challenges, and risks to be taken, ahead of us.

Fast forward to 37 weeks of pregnancy. I was a whale (no seriously, I was… twins PLUS extra fluid). I gave birth to two perfect little boys on August 29th, 2014, who both weighed 5lbs 15oz. Brooks (who had duodenal atresia) was born at 11:42pm and Brecken was born at 11:45pm. I was able to snuggle them both for a few hours before Brooks was taken to the NICU. Seeing as he had an intestinal obstruction, he couldn’t breastfeed, he had to be fed through IV. When he wasn’t even 48 hours old, he headed into surgery so that they could fix him up, good as new! He needed recovery time after his surgery in order to heal and slowly start showing his body what it was like to have breast milk run through his system. Little by little, he built up his feeds (and lowered the IV intake) and was able to come home with us when he was just over 2 weeks old (a true fighter as we had been told to expect 4-6 weeks). 


Brooks’ scar showcasing how much of a tough cookie he truly is. This picture was taken when he was 9 months old.
If I were to list all of the risks we took simply through Brooks’ journey, I would have to write far more than anyone would ever want to read. Applying my professional knowledge of risk taking to this personal story though, has allowed me to see that not everyone would take the same risks, and that’s okay. It has also allowed me to see that sometimes very tough decisions need to be made. Sometimes it feels like no matter what we do, there are risks involved, and sometimes none of the risks seem like good options, until we take them and experience what comes from them. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and no matter what the risk, how far down you fall, or how difficult it might be, you’ll learn, grow and adapt, which will hopefully make the next risk a little less scary. So, the next time that an opportunity comes along to take a risk, or better yet, the next time you create an opportunity for risk taking, think of what’s best for your students, trust your judgment while applying your knowledge, and go for it!


  1. sheilavick

    August 18, 2017 at 10:43 pm

    I’ve never heard your story about the twins! That must have been crazy stressful!

    1. Annick Rauch

      August 19, 2017 at 6:22 am

      It really was, Sheila! I remember waking up really early every morning to head to the NICU before the older two woke up in order to get in some time with Brooks without cutting too much into the time with the other boys. And I would sometimes go back at night. Having our family split up was so hard!

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