My daughter just learned to ride her bike.
What a euphoric moment to watch a child take off with a skill that will last a lifetime. And it wasn’t easy. Learning to ride means being somewhat comfortable with the possibility that you could fall. That was a fear that took longer than normal for my sweet, cautious little girl to overcome. As one of her parents trying to give her the encouragement she needed, in hindsight, I realize we were doing too much for her.
We were holding on too long.
I would put one hand on her handlebars and one on the back of her seat to ensure that she wouldn’t crash and burn. She and I both held the responsibility of her riding – me as her balancer and her as the pedaler. I knew that she would need to learn to balance using her handlebars, but she didn’t seem ready to take that skill on.
And I didn’t realize that she needed to struggle to balance to even begin to learn how to balance. She needed to wobble in order to learn.
It was only when I chose to only hold onto the back of her seat that she began to learn how to balance by steering. Of course! I had been controlling her steering so much that her progress stalled. Once she could wobble – to struggle back and forth, back and forth, only then did she improve!
Still, only holding onto the back of her seat, it was hard to let go. Her wobble seemed too frantic to work without support. If I let go, it seemed like she would go down in 2 seconds.
“Mom, I’ll tell you when to let go.” I doubtfully obeyed. And the FIRST time I did… pedal … pedal… wobble left… swerve…right…left again… she was OFF!
We squealed and hugged and our eyes locked in wide surprise. We both had the same eureka moment. Wobbling helped! I named it and she agreed. Then, every single try after that she seemed too unstable, too wavering for success, but every single time she would wobble back and forth… push through the instability… and soar.
The wobble was the secret. The wobble was the necessary ingredient for her to make a huge leap in growth. The wobble was the only way she was able to succeed.
What about us? When we face uncertainty as educators, are we naturally excited to embrace the wobble? Or, do we mentally ignore what is ambiguous and unsteady? When we are curious about a problem of practice, do we seek new options, looking out beyond our current understandings? Do we acknowledge that we might not have all of the information we need to make decisions, then willingly look to research for possible solutions? Do we invite others into our wobble by naming our curiosities?
This goes beyond being a risk-taker in our work. This takes a CHOICE to lean in to the imbalance of not knowing how to solve a problem. We might not even know how to articulate the problem yet, but we make progress by choosing to wobble with it.
We choose to wrestle with ambiguity.
We choose to wobble to find new balance.
We choose to let go of certainty to allow curiosity in.
We choose to embrace questions that we don’t know how to answer yet to even begin to solve problems of practice.
ONLY by wobbling first will we learn new ways to soar.