The First Thing Is How to Fall Down

Ani and Teagan are enjoying the start of their summer.  I’m enjoying observing as they dig in.  Today, they began taking some ice skating lessons, and I was very eager to learn how it went.

Teagan mentioned falling and skating and waving to her baby sister, Quinn, who watched from the bleachers.1

Ani mentioned falling, too, but in an entirely different way.  She told me, in her “I’m a 1st grader now, and I know some things” sort of way,  that before they went out on the ice, before they put on their skates even, that she and Teagan and her instructor talked about falling down, and what it should look like.

Actually, she showed me, which was funny.  But I didn’t get the chance to take a picture, so imagine Ani squatting and leaning and falling in a way that didn’t lead to significant long term injury.2

It hit me pretty quickly that what her ice skating teacher did was really, really smart.  I’m sure it was fueled partially by liability insurance requirement, and part compassion for children, but it was a really important lesson.

If you’re going to do pretty much anything worth doing, you’d darn well better be prepared to fall flat on your face.  There’s risk in the places worth working for. And it’s worthwhile to know how to fall, how to land in a way that will minimize the long term harm to yourself.

Just as important, you’ve got to fall with a thought for how you’re going to get back up.

I hope you’re thinking about how to help people fall down thoughtfully.  I hope that someone taught you about how to take a fall, and how to hop back up, raring to go.  Are you preparing the folks you know and work and learn with to go down hard in ways that’ll lead towards more chances to, well, take chances?

You’d better be.

Ani’s sore tonight, but her next lesson’s on Wednesday.  She fell down a bunch of times.  So did Teagan.   But someone showed them how to fall down, and how to stand back up.  They can’t wait to go out on the ice again.

Bring it, ice skating.  My daughters are ready.

  1. First walking.  Ice skating comes later. Today, Quinn was moral support. []
  2. It’s okay if you need to giggle a bit.  I did. []

5 thoughts on “The First Thing Is How to Fall Down

  1. Bud,

    Thanks for the food for thought. I’ve been working on how to frame this kind of scenario in my classroom. You’ve given me some great starting points!


  2. Great post.

    I vividly remember my daughter Cate taking skating lessons at age 6 and the first thing she was taught was how to get up properly, quickly and efficiently as getting up after falling on the ice wearing skates is different than getting up after falling on the ground with no skates. The instructor actually started the first lesson with all kids sitting on the ice and showed them how to get up. Kids practiced it for about 10 minutes.

    Maybe we need to incorporate this type of learning into our school lessons.

  3. My mother was a teacher which I didn’t appreciate until I had kids of my own. One of my sisters, my brother, and myself had learning problems during a time when learning disabilities was just beginning to be identified. My mother taught us how to “fall” in school, talked us through when we would get overwhelmed with work, and how to get back up and try again. My sister took her Math 10 (geometry) regents 3 times (back then not required by the state of NY, but needed to get into a New York college). College and graduate school was a breeze for my sister and I as we were used to working through difficult things; not so my other two sisters who rarely failed growing up, but had trouble adjusting to academic adversity.

    I told one of my classes of teachers that I like to give students challenges that I know they are going to fail at. They thought it was awful! But after working through one of those activities, they saw that it was not the failing that can be damaging (we ALL fail, as you point out) but rather lack of scaffolding and help in getting up. Can you imagine if your girls fell and the teacher laughed at them as they kept trying to get back up? Students need encouragement (don’t worry about mistakes, we all make them, what can you do to change/to improve/differently, you’re doing a good job: I know because you’re making mistakes), safe environments to make mistakes, and guidance when they get stuck.

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