Do We Need A New Model?

This is Graham (my oldest). He’ll be four this fall, and in this video, he’s doing something I never would have imagined was possible–learning to ride a bike with no training wheels.

If you have kids, you’re likely no stranger to this wonderful invention. But if you’re not, what he’s riding is called a balance bike. It’s really an interesting idea for helping kids learn to ride bikes.

The old standard, training wheels, is based on the idea that kids need to learn to pedal before they learn to balance. When the wheels come off, the trick is to pick up the new skill of balancing on your bike.

With a balance bike, the end goal is still the same: give kids who can’t ride a bike a way to exercise and learn the sills they’ll need to ride a bike one day. The thing I like about the balance bike is that kids seem to be picking up the tougher skill (balancing) first. At first, Graham struggled with it, but he really did pick it up quickly (and from what I hear, his experience is pretty typical).

Before I knew about balance bikes, I would have thought a bike with training wheels was the only viable option for helping Graham learn to ride. It was the right scaffolding he would need to teach him to pedal, and then I’d run down the street behind him when we took the wheels off, much like my dad did for me, to help him learn to balance. But because someone rethought what it actually takes to learn to ride a bike, he was able to learn, and learn faster (and I’m not sweating in the Texas sun running behind him, so that’s good, too).

When you develop a relationship, it (3)

Seeing this made me wonder if there are models that we’re holding too tightly to in education. This isn’t a post where I’m going to nail down one issue that we just have to change, but there are a lot of things we hold to really strongly that might be worth rethinking.

Maybe it’s grades that should be rethought. There is a lot of conversation out there on the ways we should rethink accepted practices with regard to student feedback.

Maybe it’s your bell schedule. Is it serving students well or teachers well?

Maybe it’s the way you schedule students. Who gets first priority–student needs or teacher preferences?

Maybe it’s the way you welcome new people to your building or into teams.

Maybe it’s the in the assumptions we make about student behavior.

Maybe it’s an element of campus culture that’s fine now, but shows room for improvement.

Maybe it’s about offering PD credit to individual teachers for time spent learning online.

Whatever it is, it’s going to be unique to each campus, but we have to be careful not to dismiss needs that should be addressed because that’s convenient. I asked a few questions here, but it’s up to you to ask the questions that need to be explored on your campus.

As you get back in “school mode” with next year approaching, take time to think of the things that seem most untouchable on your campus and spend some time wondering if there might be a better way.