My son is almost a year old and has finally learned how to pull himself up to a standing position next to the coffee table. It is exciting and terrifying at the same time. We have hardwood floors, and I’m so worried that he is going to smack his head on the ground and die. I know it’s melodramatic, but as a parent the first thought in my mind is always the worst-case scenario. I feel like I have to catch him every time he falls over.
Fortunately my son is my second child. I learned a valuable lesson with my daughter, who is 5. Kids will get hurt. Kids will fall and tumble. They will get cuts and scrapes. Sometimes they may even require stitches (1 set of stitches for my daughter). But some of the most valuable lessons come from those falls. Those minor bumps and bruises have taught my daughter why she shouldn’t run in the house and why it’s a bad idea to goof off when standing on a stool. It kills me to see her get hurt, but I would much rather a few bumps and bruises versus something much worse down the road.
Which is why I let my son fall. I’m there to make sure he doesn’t fall too hard or too fast, to brush him off and help him get back up again. But those falls have taught him how to fall without getting hurt. They’ve also taught him that it’s easy to get right back up again.
This is an area that I have struggled with in teaching. I always want to make sure students can accomplish every task I put in front of them with ease. It pains me to see them struggle and watch as the frustration level builds. I want to jump in and show them how to solve the problem or overscaffold the lesson to ensure their success.
But I’m slowly learning that sometimes it’s ok to let students fall. It’s ok to let them struggle through something, to grapple with a problem and fail a few times. If the lesson we teach students is to get back up again when they fail and learn from their mistakes, they won’t stress failure.
This week my students have been struggling with a group project. Some of the groups haven’t been cohesive (one of the pitfalls of working with friends). I think I stepped in more than I should have. If I had let the kids solve their problems, maybe the leadership traits that I know are buried deep inside of them will emerge. But for me maybe this is a failure of my own. It has brought to my attention the importance and value of making mistakes and using those mistakes for learning opportunities.
Sometimes failure is just as important as success.