My son turned five in May. To my chagrin, he has not learned to ride his bike without training wheels. There are many reasons (excuses) why I have been unable to teach him to ride his bike without training wheels. Come on, I’m a full time principal and my job and students take all of my time. Very poor excuse in the eyes of a five year old!
Two days ago, I decided to take time and teach him the basics of riding a two wheeler. Reluctantly, he agreed to start the process. He helped me take the training wheels off, found his helmet, and I laced up my running shoes. Together we set off down the street. I directed him to keep his weight centered and to peddle faster, but he continued to look back at me while I held on to his seat for support. He was able to remain balanced during the first jog down the block, but faltered each time he looked over his shoulder. We stopped to give me a break and to review his accomplishments.
I sat on his front tire facing him and his face showed apprehension. He was afraid to fall. My words of reassurance fell on deaf ears, but his fear was subdued when we took time to review the facts. He needed evidence that I would be there to catch him.
I reminded him that he had lost his balance each time he looked over his shoulder. Each time he tipped to one side or the other I reminded him that I was there to catch him. The break was over and I continued to catch him as the bike leaned from side to side each time causing the breath to leave his lungs and each time I was there to catch him.
By the end of our short ride I was exhausted and he was able to ride for a short distance without the assistance of his father.
During the school year, teachers experience fears similar to my son. Apprehension is the rust that causes the gears to seize. While teaching my son to ride his bike, I got lathered in sweat. Leaders need to lather up and guide their teachers the same way. Teachers will look over their shoulders and good leaders will be right there encouraging them to continue and when they start to lean off course they will gently assist them as they regain their balance.
My work with my son’s riding isn’t done. We have to practice this newly formed skill over and over until automaticity is accomplished. In fact, I think he could have done it without my assistance, but he needed some affirmation and trust in his father.
As the new school year begins, don’t forget good teachers only need affirmation and the trust of their leaders to learn to ride. Give them time to practice and develop benchmarks to check their own progress.
Teaching Cole to ride isn’t the end goal. I want him to learn to ride so he can become a proficient rider and we can explore larger areas together. Teaching teachers a new skill is never the end goal. Walk along side of them as they practice and implement their new skill with their students and continue to give positive feedback for the progress attained.