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Training Wheels

September 27, 2014

My six-year-old son and I took off the training wheels to his bike in August.  Once we did, he enthusiastically wanted to go out and try to ride right away.  It was challenging.  I didn’t help because I was completely directing his every decision.  School started and I struggled to find time to get out there with him.  We went out last weekend and his frustration level was high.  He only lasted about 15 minutes before he was ready to stop for the day.

This last week I did some research on different ways to help kids learn to ride a bike.  I changed my approach from teaching him to ride a bike to helping him learn how to ride a bike.  Yesterday, we went out again and I started to try some of the techniques I had learned via the web.  He latched on to one in particular.  He tried and tried using the new technique.  He was improving!  After about 20 minutes, he told me he wanted to keep trying but that he was going to adjust the technique.  Within 5 minutes he was riding!  As a father, it was one of those very special moments.  I was ecstatic, and his younger siblings were amazed  He was proud.

The Classroom

Far too often, we have a set blueprint of what we want to do in the classroom.  In fact, we are usually commended on our ability to plan effective lessons.  There is no doubt that planning is important.  I will not argue that.  I would argue though that we, as educators, over plan.  We devise, schedule, and execute lessons that might be hitting on all the necessary standards and objectives but are denying the authentic learning that should be happening in the classroom.

My experience with my son this weekend is the perfect example.  I planned to go out on Friday to work with him.  Before then, I researched and prepared for my time with him.  During the “lesson”, I introduced him to multiple ways to complete the objective.  Sounds good, right?  Here is where we all have to improve.  My son took my help and changed it to fit his needs.  He listened, learned, made a choice, and completed the objective.

I have taken this opportunity away from my students too often.  I try to have an open learning space that allows my students to make real decisions.  Even though that is my intent, I fail.  I don’t mind admitting it because I understand that my failures are just steps along a bigger path.  Not every failure leads to success but every failure does help me grow as an educator.

I learned a few years back that I needed to take my own training wheels off in the classroom.  I needed to let my students learn without their every move being controlled. If they need space, give it to them.  If they know a better way to solve a problem, get out of their way.  Let them make decisions.  Let them fail.   Help them and guide them but let them have their own wheels.



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