Learning can be hard. Help your kids love it!
Let’s pick up where we left off…I was celebrating every reaction that my students were having from making multiple mistakes. I was about to use this as a teaching moment. Did I say teaching moment? Maybe I meant a counseling session (for me). This is where I get to the nitty- gritty of just how hard learning can be. This is where I tell my students about learning how to ski.
To say that I am not a naturally athletic person would be an understatement. Coordination has never been my friend. This made my first skiing attempt brutal. I’m not talking, “fall down multiple times” brutal. I’m talking, “the ski patrol comes to pick you up after being on the mountain for FOUR hours” brutal. To give my 13 year old self credit- I did not accept their ride (much to the dismay of the youth leader who was accompanying me down the mountain). However, for every youth group ski trip after that, I went shopping instead of skiing.
Fast forward to me as a 32 year old living in Colorado. I knew I wanted to learn how to ski. I also knew that I would be inclined to give up on this sport very easily once I actually faced the mountain. So, I went all in. I bought skis. I bought the best boots. I bought my clothes, goggles, and (most importantly) helmet. I knew that with a financial investment I would not let myself give up or at least I would feel really bad if I did!
Then came ski lessons. I spent three days on the bunny slopes. Small children frequently whizzed by me. One child even said, “Don’t worry. You will really like it once you get the hang of it.” I can still hear my ski instructed yelling, “Engage the core!” So, I engaged the core and finally I rocked the bunny slopes. No, I owned the bunny slopes. Six year olds, watch out! However, with my new found ability came my next challenge…actually going up the mountain.
Up, up, up, up, UP, we went. I felt sick to my stomach. However, I successfully maneuvered myself off the death trap that is called a ski lift and D day had begun. To my delight all of my lessons had paid off. I heard my instructor yelling, “Good, Christine!” Dare I say, I was the best one in my group! I had never been so proud of myself. The 13 year old in me was bubbling with joy. Then came the second half of the mountain…
All of the sudden I started to fall. I fell over and over again. I fell so many times that my ski instructor led me down by skiing backwards and holding on to me. It took everything in me to not start crying. The 13 year old in me was very angry that we had even tried this stupid sport again. At the bottom of the mountain, my ski instructor asked to see my skis. He picked them up and said, “Christine, these are racer’s skis. They bend less than mine and they are way too long for you.”
I had gotten them because I was “all in.” The ski shop said they were the skis I wanted. It turns out, I didn’t have the right tools.
After that, I rented beginner skis. I didn’t have any other horrifying moments on the mountain…I even had FUN skiing.
I tell this story to my kids. I think it is important for them to understand that we all struggle to learn things. I also refer back to it throughout the year. When they get frustrated I can say, “It does feel frustrating (and I genuinely understand) . Remember how badly I wanted to quit skiing?” This is also the perfect opportunity for me to talk to them about the different tools we use for learning. Everybody’s tools will be different. I let them know that if learning ever feels impossible then it is my job to find different tools. Beginners should not be using racer’s skis!
This year I am going to hang one word on my wall. YET. I went to a training with Jean Blaydes Madigan from Action Based Learning. She gets credit for this. When children say they can’t do something, you point to it. “You are right, you can’t do it…YET.” Help them build the belief that they can do anything with a bit of perseverance.
*Disclaimer: Annoyingly perfect people will not have a story like this to tell. If you want to help your kids see weakness and you can’t think of anything in your own life…feel free to use my story as your own. The 13- year- old in me would be happy for our embarrassment to go to a good cause. Remember, let them see you weak; it will help them be strong.