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A learning experience, revisited


As a little girl, spending time with my father was second to nothing – not even giant scoops of chocolate-laced ice cream or permission to stay up late with my three older sisters. This was the man who would take me to the park and teach me to play tennis, sing me my own special song while strumming his guitar, and captivate me with lengthy, animated stories using different voice-overs for each character.

So one day when he invited me to accompany him on a walk, I jumped at the opportunity to ride my training-wheel clad bike proudly next to the World’s Greatest Dad. Accommodated nicely on my generous banana seat, we headed for the parking lot of a local shop. With a driver’s appreciation of the open road I approached the empty lot excitedly, not knowing this was the beginning of my demise.

I guess I didn’t notice the purposeful way in which he gauged my balance as I rode, let alone the shiny steel tool in his back pocket. “Those training wheels will have to come off,” he said to my absolute horror. Looking back, I could have rode away, as far as those four wheels would take me (at least five blocks, where surely no one would find me until dark). But I was without proper provisions for wilderness survival; ultimately I didn’t really believe that the man to whom I had unfalteringly entrusted my safety and would actually go through with it.

I’m surprised that the subsequent fit I threw didn’t provide sufficient evidence that I was still too much of a baby to enter the high-speed, two-wheeled world. With a few disconcerting turns of the wrench, everything I knew about balance was gone. Now I was left with only the assurance of his right hand, clutching the back of the seat. I wasn’t naïve, though; I knew he’d only be able to hold on until I crashed into the nearest obstacle. Suddenly the wide-open space of this seemingly empty lot was a deathtrap-laden course – WHO put those excessively thorny bushes there? WHAT were they thinking? Are those pedestrians just walking by or did my whole family conspire to invite sneering on-lookers to this show?

As I started to wobble along on this trapeze act, I pleaded with this man to not let go. I offered him everything: good grades and a clean room for life, my helping of dessert for a week, WAIT! a month, I’d even learn to love Brussel Sprouts or grapefruit juice! (Not both, one has to maintain some limits.) I thought we had successfully negotiated a deal that involved no boyfriends until middle age when I realized he wasn’t even behind me anymore.

As my dad became smaller and smaller, I was overcome with exhilaration for this whole new independent adventure. In the absence of those small, rickety wheels I experienced the smoother, quieter ride of a luxury sedan. I was transformed; clearly born with a superior ability for evolutionary transition, I was already picturing my first wheel-y when those bushes suddenly became larger and larger. CRASH…DAAAADDDDDD!

My therapist has assured me that my father is just a practicing Behavioralist - this technique was trial by error and not parental negligence. My lawyer is still reviewing the case.


I'm a first time reader of your blog and enjoy your writing style. I kept waiting as I read this piece for you to compare your fear of riding without training wheels to the situation that we find so often in education: that many teachers are reluctant to integrate technology into the classroom until they feel as if they've been fully trained and have all the answers. As your father knew so well, there is only one way to learn how to ride a bike! There might be a few bumps and bruises along the way, but the ride is exhilirating.
Thanks for the enjoyable post.

Katie, I loved this story. It reminds me a great deal of the learning process that good teachers do throughout their careers. I am currently finishing an online class that focused on online communication and collaboration and it has definitely felt like a taking-the-training-wheels-off moment. As I enter my 9th year of teaching I felt the need to make sure I was keeping up with what is new in the world of education only to find myself firmly sitting on what I learned in my college days.

This course has been an eye-opening experience for me to see how my classroom can change and how the world of communication and collaboration already has changed. I am open and excited about the possibilities of linking with classrooms but the thought of how I am going to get to the comfort level to embark on such a task is a bit overwhelming! I suppose I should heed the wisdom of your father and just keep plugging along until I realize I am there and have that “superior ability for evolutionary” communication!

I have read the story, and know that it is very informative. I also agree with you that experience make man perfect.

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