bikes planes and automobiles · education · Kids · waxing philosophical

Day 135: Learning

E is learning to ride a bike.

You’d think that since E is my fourth child, I might remember how to teach this skill. You’d be wrong. It appears that teaching bike skills is like potty training: so exhausting and frustrating that my brain has erased all memory of the last time I did it.

This time I was armed with a new gadget: a “Balance Buddy”, which is a real back-saver. Instead of holding onto the underside of the bike seat and one handlebar, I just hold a nice, tall handle and walk behind the bike as E pedals.

Her determination to master biking reminds me of how she learned to walk. Every time she falls, she says, “I’m gonna do this!” and tries again. I’d love to say that it’s a beautiful example of self-motivated learning, but I’d be lying. The truth is that she gets a chocolate chip every time she tries to lift her feet off the ground, every time she falls, and everytime she gets back up. She had her first epic wipeout about an hour ago, which got her a scraped knee and four chocolate chips.

When she hit the pavement I ran to her. “Hooray!” I said. “Your first wipeout! Awesome!” She stopped crying, stared at me, and brightened considerably when I told her that a scraped knee was worth an extra two chocolate chips. After that she was back up and bolder than before, yelling at me to let go.

It makes me wonder how schools might be different if we rewarded failing and trying again, instead of just lauding the successful attempts. How much more creativity would we see? What if failure was seen as learning, and the only negative outcome was if you stopped trying?

One thought on “Day 135: Learning

  1. I think your strategy works really well one-on-one, but I know a lot of kids who would get *really* creative about failing with minimal effort. In Gr 1 my E wanted to join chess club (which her dad was helping run), which was supposed to be for Gr. 3 & up. So we let her join and rewarded her for ‘losing well’ – which consisted of not taking too long with her turns, and cheering on the other person when they beat her instead of getting frustrated at losing. All of which is to say that I think the focus needs to be on the trying again and not the failing…and in the hands of a bad teacher this can go really really wrong…which is the case for everything isn’t it? Ultimately I think it is just *easier* to reward success. It takes a lot of effort to recognize effort which hasn’t led to success yet.

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