People often use the phrase ‘it’s like learning to ride a bike’ to describe something you learn and never forget. So why is it every time I ride my bike I seem to forget how to work the gears?
Recently I had an urge to set off on my bike having not ventured out on it in approximately nine months. Around sixty seconds after setting off I realised I had completely forgotten how to navigate the gears. Not to be defeated by this two-wheeled mechanism I continued on regardless. I was travelling on flat ground and would be for quite some time during my planned route. Surely the knowledge would come flooding back to me? Right?
I had fiddled about with the gears for around ten minutes with no success. My bike had made some interesting sounds. None of which had sounded remotely promising. And, now here I was about to pass a group of construction workers and approaching a hill knowing full well I was in completely the wrong gear. Now, of course, I am not a quitter and I did not wish to fail in front of a group of people so I continued to pedal up the hill.
By some miracle I managed to reach the top. It can only be miraculous as it certainly wasn’t from my current fitness levels. I felt an incredible sense of relief on reaching the top especially knowing I could take it easy on the other side as there were no further inclines approaching any time soon. Sure enough as I continued on I gained confidence in using the gears again and made it back home safely and felt fairly pleased with myself. It was only when I returned that my partner kindly pointed out that my back wheel hadn’t been properly attached.
This analogy reminds me very much of my role as teacher. How many times have we slogged through something knowing it probably wasn’t fit for purpose or there was probably a much easier and more effective way? Why do we do this? Is it from a lack of knowledge about what the other possibilities might be? Is it the added pressure of accountability or feeling that we lack power in decision making? Or is it because we’ve got a break coming up soon where we can take a breath and forget all about it?
On the day of my bike ride I made plans to head out again. Tackle a new route perhaps and do so quickly before my returned knowledge of gears quickly evaporated. However, it’s been roughly two weeks. I have not been out again. And, yes… I believe I have forgotten how to ride my bike again.
Next time I return will I put myself through the pain and stress in carrying on regardless until I battle my way towards some kind of progress. A progress that will be false and lacking longevity. Or will I go back better prepared? Will I give myself the time to better equip myself? Use an alternative approach perhaps? Instead of looking at the idea of stopping to reassess things as ‘quitting’ or ‘failure’ could I look at it differently?
Can we do the same when we return to school? Or will we just pedal on regardless? I really hope that when discussing the return to school I don’t hear the phrase ‘It’s like learning to ride a bike’. Unless we are willing to admit that we’ve forgotten how the gears work.
Katy Anderson @MissAndersonBPS
Primary Teacher Blackburn Primary