We had a friend visiting last week and when given the choice of activities to do for the day, he chose a bike ride along the river trail. This paved trail is ideal for biking, walking, scooters, roller blades, etc. and for taking in the beauty of the Rockies all at the same time. While on our adventure, I got to thinking about the similarities between a bike ride and teaching kids. Such as . . .
Destination When we started out, we had an idea where we were headed, how far we would go, and what we might see along the way. Having a destination in mind is a good starting point! Yes, we could have just randomly started out with no set plan, but knowing where you’re headed helps you feel motivated. True with teaching kids, too! Whether it’s for one lesson or one themed unit or one year or their entire educational career, it is helpful to have in mind where you and your child will end up as a result of your efforts. And it is helpful to have these “destinations” written down. They might be learning objectives or character qualities or goals but these written “destinations” will give you motivation and direction. Will it always turn out exactly as you envisioned? Not likely, but therein lies the adventure! (Read on!)
Expect the Unexpected Our plan was to bike 5 miles from our starting point to a wildlife watching area, then bike back. Simple enough! However, somewhere around mile 4 the stem exploded off the tube of my friend’s bike! A completely flat tire and no spare meant walking the 4 miles back. Was it what we planned? No, but the walk was lovely nonetheless. In teaching kids you can be certain that you will come across something you were not expecting. Perhaps a learning disability or a number-phobia or a teenager who cannot muster the motivation to tackle that difficult class – whatever causes your learning progress to come to a screeching halt – changes your plan. Of course you have to make other arrangements and take a different path, but the journey is still meaningful. Often students and their families learn and grow in important ways they would have missed had the path been easy and predictable.
Essential Gear During our walk back, another biker stopped and quipped, “You know those things work better if you ride them!” When we explained our plight, he said, “Oh. I don’t have a spare with me! Sorry!” We had water, helmets, cell phone, car keys, sunglasses even! but no spare tube. In teaching kids, there is certain essential “gear” as well. Kids need an environment conducive to learning, a schedule optimal to learning, and tools to support learning. An important tool in learning is curriculum and Global Student Network is an excellent resource to find just what you need. Offering six of the best online curricula, www.globalstudentnetwork.com can help you gear up for your educational journey.
Laugh! When the kind fellow biker stopped to check on us, I wished I had come back with, “We just figured it was a nice day to take our bikes for a walk.” Humor helps in many situations. Besides the health benefits (cardiovascular and immune response enhancement), laughter also increases memory and learning, according to a study at Johns Hopkins University Medical School. Thus laughter should be a part of teaching kids.
Pace I find downshifting to go uphill is a godsend to tired legs! A bike ride is all about matching the pace to the lay of the land. So is teaching kids! If material is offered too slowly, boredom ensues. If presented too quickly, then frustration, not learning, is the outcome. The key to educational success is proper pace. That is a huge advantage to online learning. It is individualized to a student’s learning needs.
Balance Where would you be without balance on a bike?? Sprawled on the pavement, that’s where!! Balance keeps you upright and able to pedal forward. Teaching kids is a balancing act, too. It’s balancing the student’s needs and the curriculum requirements. It’s balancing meeting objectives in a timely fashion with allowing time to pursue a subject of interest just for love-of-learning’s sake. It’s balancing the different needs of different children within the same family. Just like riding a bike, it takes practice. And when you get off balance, you have to dust yourself off and get right back on!
So as you get ready to start a new school year, I say sincerely – Happy Cycling!!
(oh, and check your tire pressure before heading out!)
Copyright © 2013 J. Hoffman / GSN
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