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When Babies Fall Down…

when babies fall...

Note: Though I’m talking about teaching here, you’ll find that it applies to any walk of life.

Babies fall down. It’s what they do.
Toddlers try and try to walk over and over, falling and falling.

Baby steps become dreams realized.

Let’s look more closely at this idea.

First, your students. They mess up. Over and over and over. You have to be wise when you see that. Example: I gave a student a paper back yesterday that had 11 out of 14. I wrote, “I hope you’re not happy with that grade.”

Why? Because I knew it would motivate her to greater success. I watched her go into action to make it better immediately.

For other students, that would feel like a slap in the face. She’s been falling by being overly social and then the “check came due.” And she was ready.

For other students, to get 11/14 on a paper would make them very excited. My comment – “I’m proud of you. You worked hard!”

When a toddler falls down, we don’t scold them. We help them get back up for them to try again. They have to do it 1000 times. It doesn’t bother us. And one little one starts walking at 7 months. The next one figures it out at 18 months. We don’t worry. We keep helping them. Smiling and laughing. Learning to walk is one of The Hardest Things We Ever Have to Learn, but we all learn it in an environment of fun and joy.

If we shift our perspective on our students behavior, can it lead to more joy and greater engagement?

Do you seem encouraging or demanding to your students?

What about your life?

I’m sure you are aware of some things were you feel like you are falling short.

I’ll tell you about one of mine. First the result – right now my classroom and my desk are the cleanest they have EVER been at this point in the school year. Why? Because I have finally put the idea of baby steps to work.

It’s like this: every day, I have a checklist of things that I’m working to improve in my life. One of those things is straightening up my classroom, especially my desk.

My old attitude – I have to get this ALL done.
My new attitude – I have to do some. As long as any surface looks cleaner, it counts.

How did I build that habit?

I put it on my checklist. I failed over and over and over for months. I fell down.

Side note – for some things on my list, as soon as I write them, I get better at it. Immediately. Organizing and straightening up my desk and work spaces was not one of these!

One day I looked at that item on the checklist and gave myself permission to do even a little bit. As long as the surface looked better, it counted.

In one week, my classroom was calmer, more relaxing place to work.

For you, it might not be organization. But I’d be surprised. Most of use can find a place in our lives where we need to get more organized. Where it would pay off greatly if we were.

What’s that habit that you would love to be squared away in a few months or even a year?

Maybe you want to build the habit of taking a walk every day. You say, “I’m going for a half hour walk!”

You feel like you need to get just the right shoes, clothes, and push your schedule around until it all starts to work.

And you do it once or twice and it doesn’t happen. So you give up.

Try this.

Go for 5 minute walks no matter the shoes, clothes or time. Everyone has 5 minutes.

Then, watch it fall into place. Soon, you’re going on half hour walks because it has become this habit that you MUST do.

How about your school?

What is a baby step your school needs to start doing? What’s that one thing that would make a big difference if everyone did it.

Maybe it’s a big thing like analyzing test data regularly. Ugh.

Baby step. Spend 5 minutes looking at a test metric every day. When you hit 5 minutes, you get to stop.

Everyone clicks a Google Form that says, “I did it.” Or “oops.”

The info goes on spreadsheet. And you can see if you are building this into your school workflow.

That’s just an idea. I’m not even doing that one yet. But I can see where it would help me and that I could do it. I would learn a lot about my students.

The idea is for you to create your own list and your own baby steps that you need.

Wisely begin to recognize baby steps for your students, for you, and for your school.

You can do that. (By the way, these are the kinds of things I write about in The Art of Focus and The Art of Motivation).

Be good. Be wise. Be jubilant.

Art S. Lieberman

P.S. Your baby steps become your dreams REALIZED!

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One Comment

  1. Dorie Dorie

    I use the “baby steps” parable with my kids all the time! When they begin to whine and bark back at me that the work is TOO HARD – I remind them that they had to fall a whole bunch of times to start to walk. I also let them know that their parents “encouraged them” – each parent has a different style for that as well – and they need to take that into consideration, as their report is also a learning point in their lives.
    I appreciate your blogs/books – still haven’t gotten myself to enjoy podcasts – thanks for writing and supporting all of us.

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