If At First You Don’t Succeed

Thomas H. Palmer coined the phrase “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.”. He was an author and educator. As I also work with children, I can see how this motto helped him through some hectic moments.

When I learned that Special Olympics had a Young Athletes program, I immediately knew I wanted to set up a group for the children that I work with. I took calls with the Special Olympics office, made adorable flyers, received equipment, created plans and goals for the children, and before the first practice, I had twelve children signed up and a few more interested. Success!

Unfortunately, after practice number 1 last week, I did not feel like a success. At the start of the practice, some of the kids were confused. The school day ended, and their classmates put on their shoes and left. “Where is my mom?” they asked. Others felt overwhelmed. “I feel scared,” one of the boys said. “It’s scary to meet so many new friends,” I told him. He nodded and hugged me.

Quickly, my lesson plan was thrown out the window and replaced with a frantic attempt to fill each moment with fun. I was exhausted by the end. Honestly, I was pretty terrified for what the next 12 weeks held.

Skip to today. Session #2.

Things went great!

Do not be fooled, it was still a crazy 45 minutes. There was a bit of crying (but less than last time), and often the rules were not followed and plans were changed (I have yet to find a way to stop the children from stealing parts of the obstacle course and running away with them).

But, the kids had fun! So much fun!

They seemed more comfortable with their new Thursday schedule. They completed several rounds of the obstacle course before jumping to the next activity. They even waited to climb on top of the parachute until we had finished using it the “correct” way.

Most importantly, I had changed. I felt no loyalty to the plan I had made. I did not allow myself to feel dysregulated when a child started to cry or even when one tried to run out the door. I did not lose confidence in my ability to teach the kids and provide them with a really fun experience.

Every single time I got nervous that the group wasn’t going the way I had dreamed, I looked around to find a child smiling and having fun. Not once was it hard to find not one, but many smiling faces. If that is not reassurance that you are doing something right, then I don’t know what is.

So, the moral of my story today. In moments of lost self-confidence and worry about changing plans, look for the smiling faces around you that tell you you’re doing alright. They are there 🙂 I promise!

Inclusion will change the world.

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