Saturday, March 24, 2012


I just spoke to my sister, Kathy.  She just informed me that my 11 month old niece is now walking and talking.  Yes, little Gracie (Grace) is walking and talking.  Grace is my great niece and my sister's first granddaughter.  Last night, Grace was no longer content with holding her Granddad's hand.  Instead, she was anxious to let it go, to take off, and to run!  Not walk, run!  Soon Grace will experience the pain of falling down.  She'll eventually obtain her first boo boo.   When I reminded my sister of that, she became immediately sad and protective.  "Oh no, Grace will have to fall soon." she repeated.

That's when the thought struck me.  Yes, we all have to fall down now and then.  That's how we learn.  We fall down in many different ways, not just physically, but emotionally, socially, professionally, and when we are learning something new.  It's a part of life.  I remember when I was a teenager, I was learning to roller skate backwards.  I could skate forwards, but desperately wanted to skate backwards.  I fell many times, and a lot of those times I fell hard.  People who were watching told me I was going to get hurt.  Of course, I didn't listen.  I'm the kind of person that becomes more determined to do something when people tell me I CAN'T do it.  So, I fell down, but I got back up.  Each time I fell, I got up and kept trying.  Eventually, I learned to skate backwards, and I was pretty good at it.  Ask my sister, Kathy.  She was there, and she'll back me up.

Falling down is not fun.  It's not something we even want to do, but it happens.  What's important is that we get back up.  When my students are learning to read, they have to be willing to take risks.  Sometimes they are more successful using one strategy over another.  They don't stop reading when they make their first attempts or an unsuccessful attempt at applying a strategy.  They may fall down several times in the process.  However, what's important is they get back up, they keep reading and trying.  When my students are problem solving during math exchanges, they make mistakes.  They fall down.  They try solving the problem one way, and when that way doesn't work, they try another way.  So, they get back up.

My sister knows that Gracie is going to fall at some point.  She also knows that Gracie will get back up.  The falling will make her stronger, smarter, and more confident because Gracie will learn how to get back up.  It's okay to fall now and then.  Just make sure you get back up, dust yourself off, and keep trying.  DON'T GIVE UP!

By the way, today (March 24th) is Kathy's birthday.   Happy Birthday, Kathy!


  1. I love the way you used examples from your present life, or Gracie's rather, and your own past experiences to illuminate this very important aspect of the learning experience. You make it so easy for the reader to connect to his/her own experience and understand your point.

    We've been having discussions at school (teachers, admin) about what it means to 'guide' students and what it means to 'rescue' them, and when it is appropriate to do the one over the other. Learning does involve falling down, and sometimes it seems that we don't let our students fall. We rescue them too much, out of our desire to protect them from the negative feeling you describe. And yet, how will they learn how to get up if we keep rescuing them? I'm so glad you sliced, so eloquently, about this important topic.

  2. Mardie, it sounds like we are on the same page with this. Our students often become too dependent on us. Sometimes they're afraid to even try. I'm teaching them that it's okay to fall and make mistakes. I'm constantly working to make our learning environment a safe place to learn and to fall and get back up.