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A Soft Place to Land

From an early age, as they are taking on new skills, many children learn that "wrong" is bad and "right" is good. Even as adults, we often feel the pressure to get things right. The defect with that stringent tenet is that it is through regrouping after numerous failures that we arrive at proficiency. It is how we mastered walking as toddlers. Failure is a path to our successes. However, if we have been taught not to fail, the fear of doing so can keep us from ever taking the first step.

My student today is just entering his first year of high school. He's mild-mannered, and struggles with confidence when it comes to math. When I first began working with him years ago, I noticed that he can become dependent on outside help, and sometimes refuses to even guess at an answer. The eventuality of getting it wrong becomes too daunting for him.




With his understanding slipping behind the other students in his class, my job became to create our sessions to be a "soft place" for him to practice toddling through new math skills. Today we came to a familiar moment when he wasn't sure of an answer. He waited for me to me to bail him out. That may still be a default move for him, but by now he's used to me. Trusting he had room to get it wrong, he pressed in and found his way to the answer he was seeking; and with it a little bit more confidence.

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