Corrections after a stumble

How do we act and react when our learners take a stumble in their learning?  How are we teaching persistence? How do we help learners learn to stay the course? How do we teach pressing on in spite of difficulty or a stumble?

I stumbled.  I was out on a run early one Sunday morning.  I have been practicing and “doing my homework.”  Theoretically, I am training for a 10K.  Realistically, I’m just working on endurance and overcoming “I can’t” thinking.  At approximately 3 miles out, I stumbled.  In the slow motion moment, I thought “Oh, good; I’m gonna catch myself.” In actual time, wham! Here’s a quick peek at the results of my stumble.

OUCH! But, I was very lucky.  I did not break my nose, teeth, wrists, or anything else.  I did skin and bruise my nose, the left side of my face, my right palm, and my left knee.  I did have to call for help to get home. Three weeks later, there is only a little road-rash under my left eye.  The cleanup and healing took time, work, encouragement, and extra care.

I took action to care for my injuries in the form of lots of salve and ibuprofen. Others took action in many ways to help.

I’ve got a warm washcloth, Bandaids, and Neosporin.  How can I help you?

It really doesn’t look that bad. You hardly notice it.

<teasing> Maybe you should consider different shoes. You know, flat shoes rather than the ridiculous ones that you usually wear.

Just give it time; be patient.  I had a similar incident, and with time and care, you will be fine – back to normal. It will get better.  I suggest vitamin E so that you won’t scar.

<again, teasing> Well, that’s what you get for running.

Notice that no one said “well, you just weren’t prepared.” No one said “maybe you should try harder next time.” No one said “you just weren’t ready.” No one said “it’s okay, this is not in your strength set.”

When a learner fails to meet their own expectations – when they stumble – consider actions and reactions. They speak louder than words.

With time, action, and care, we can fix this.

What can I do to help you?

It is really not that bad. There are bright spots in your work and learning. Let’s work together to brighten the areas of concern.

I did not run for about a week.  I was too sore and bruised.  It makes me wonder about test corrections and 2nd chance tests immediately after an academic stumble.

One of my learners said

This can be a challenge for me because sometimes I feel that I give the effort and it just doesn’t reach the results that I wanted.”

In Mindset, Dr. Carol Dweck writes

“When people believe their basic qualities can be developed, failures may still hurt, but failures don’t define them.   And if abilities can be expanded – if change and growth are possible – then there are still many paths to success.” (p. 39)

My path – on the way to a 10K – took a detour. I have to backtrack a little to reach the result I want. Test corrections are part of the salve and ibuprofen to offer care and comfort while expanding abilities and putting learners on another of the many paths to success.

Cleanup and healing takes time, work, encouragement, and extra care.


Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: the New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House, 2006. 39. Print.


    • Hi Cliff,
      I am almost back to normal, and after about 10 days off, I am running again. Thanks. Stephen talks often about the blessings of a skinned knee. It took almost 3 weeks to appreciate the blessings. I find many blessings now, but it was tough at first. Every time someone encouraged me, I could hear myself giving encouragement to one of my students after an assessment. In the future, I hope that I can offer more of “it will be okay if we continue to work on it,” and “I am here to help.” I also hope that I will find (and model having) the stamina to stick with the plan to make corrections.


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