Learning on the Run

from Masters to Marathons

Week 5: Reflecting on the Run

 

As I’ve said before, running is such a beautiful metaphor for life. Truly, you get out of it what  you put in. It is with thoughtful determination, recognizing setbacks, never being afraid of falling, a dusting yourself up and getting back out there mentality, while reflecting on what you did and what could be better, that running and life truly mirror one another. Teaching also follows in this same set of footsteps. Sometimes you try something and you fall flat on your face. But you get back up and figure out some other way to make it work and make it work better. I’m a firm believer in the quote, “If the plan doesn’t work, change the plan, but never the goal.” There is nothing more motivating than knowing success is a work in process and as long as you are moving forward, you are moving in the right direction.

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I must say that these last 5 weeks have been amazing. I feel like I was given the gift of time to do something that truly I am impassioned about without the guilt or worry that comes from taking that me time. Usually, it is at the expense of something I “should” be doing and even though I appreciate lacing up and getting out there, this little voice inside gnaws at me to “Get done…get home…and get busy” on all of those “have-tos” that seem to pile up along the road of life. But with this challenge, I was given the freedom to get out there without the angel and devil like banter on my shoulders. I ran free-er and although not necessarily faster, the liberating wind in my hair and the permission to just be were priceless. 

First and foremost, I was successful because I got out there! Yes! With the exception of a few setbacks, some anticipated and some not, I made it a promise to myself to get out and run 3 times a week, and although some weeks it was less, I laced up, rain, sun, and impending darkness falling alike and did it. I also got better at following my watch and walking and running at more specific intervals, which resulted in less red dots splotched together in no particular order. I gave myself a structure to work within and for the most part, stuck with it. This is an example of what I looked like from beginning to end:

My goal was to walk less and begin to run more, and although I still have a lot of work to do to eventually get to the point where I am doing that, I’m at least moving in the right direction, so I call that a success. In terms of falling short, I wish I had been able to run a full mile without stopping, but I will chalk that up to what the growth mindset refers to as “NYET”—Not Yet. I surprised myself because it seems that although my pace is slow when my run/walk intervals get averaged in together, I can actually book it when I want to. In fact, there were many runs I looked down at my watch and was hitting 9-10 minute miles and I thought, “Who are you?”– of course I couldn’t sustain it for long, but it felt good none the less in that triumphant moment.

It is funny, but my biggest frustration was the very thing that was meant to keep  me accountable in this challenge. My Garmin kind of irritated me with its buzzing and beeping ( I eventually set the beep feature because when running I didn’t feel the vibration and missed my interval change. At some points I was like, “OK..dying here. When is it time to walk? Oh…3 minutes ago. Ooops”). I found that when I was forcing myself to run, there were some days where my legs, breath and overall exhaustion level were not having it. Other days I got into a great groove and it was time to walk. I wasn’t ready to stop running yet. But I knew I needed to follow the plan and listen to my watch so that I didn’t regret not taking that walk time when I was supposed to. My watch dictating my every move, in it’s meant-to-be-helpful way, actually stole some of the freedom that comes with running. I did a lot of thinking about that very thing while out there hitting the pavement. How many time in life is that tool that is meant to support us actually works to hinder us? That brought me to my next thought.

It made me wonder what it would be like to run sans watch at all. I’ve always run with my watch to tell me pace and time. But maybe that will be my next goal- let my body guide me and see how that feels. I’m guessing the experience will be both liberating and scary all at the same time. I rely on that watch and can’t even count the number of times I look down at it for reassurance. I can’t help but think about my classroom in this way. Some days we need to ditch the lesson plan and take those “teachable” moments where the students are driving the lesson and not the plan or the bell or the text. I think that in this sense, running provides another great metaphor for life-Go where the road takes you. Maybe we don’t need a bell to ring to tell us when to run and walk. Maybe we don’t need a preplanned path for the day or a set amount of mileage. Maybe sometimes the best runs are the unplanned, unscripted ones where passion and heart drive the pace and path. For students to be fully engaged in the learning process, they need to own the experience. They need to choose the passion and the path and go the distance in their own way to create something representative of their desires. I believe that running teaches me so much about life and who I am as a person, and then when I least expect it, it teaches me something else. I want to give my students the gift of running toward their own dreams and talents, and instead of slowing them down to “walk when it’s time” let them run full blast toward what makes their hearts beat a little faster in excitement for where their road will take them. This goes back to what we have been learning in the Innovator’s Mindset. Sometimes less is oh so much more. Otherwise, we get so attached to a plan, it can potentially be our undoing, the thief of our joy.

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I also realized during this challenge how integral the internet is for making connections, seeking guidance and learning new tricks of the trade. In my last blog post I wrote about all of the various ways that technological literacy was imperative in my learning. First, I had no idea how to make my watch work. Call in the Youtube experts. Then, I realized I was upping my mileage too fast and getting hurt. Hello stretching videos and injury prevention sites. Heck, just to make my adaptive calendar, I sought out my favorite blogger and Tweeted her for advice. I reached out to Facebook friends in my various running groups for guidance and started following the Twitter accounts of everyone from Jeff Galloway to Runner’s World to Hal Higdon to Chi Running techniques. Through the digital supports I was able to access, I found myself being supported in ways beyond what I could have gotten in a face-to-face setting. I know it sounds crazy, but a lot of my down time in the evening isn’t exactly convenient for my “real life friends” but it’s amazing, on the internet, someone is always awake to lend a helping hand, provide advice or just hear my tales of woe or stories of success. That drop of a hat support is invaluable in the ability to learn and grow. In the world of technology, there is no “past my bedtime”— Hallelujah for late night support and advice!

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I have realized that I need to give my students these same opportunities. When you ask a middle schooler what their passions are, something lights up in their eyes. That is the passion we need to cultivate. It is a passion that drives us all. In my first blog post, I added this quote, and I find it even more true now:

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Following our passion should not be that extra we might get to do when all the other responsibilities of life are met. We can still meet the standards but give kids a choice in what they are interested in and allow them access to the world at their fingertips. I don’t claim to know it all. None of us do. But collectively, we are powerful beyond belief and with technology as a teacher and tool, even more so. It’s taking the time to create learning opportunities where we all find what moves us and let our heart and mind guide our learning. Thank you so much, Dr. Katie Martin, for showing me, through this 25 Hour Learning Challenge, how powerful learning can be when we are allowed to follow our hearts and our passions, while always learning in the process. 

When I first started running, I bought a medal rack for my race medals. I was Salutatorian of my graduating class in high school and have my medals for academic achievement growing up, but this was a whole new ball game for me. Remember, I was the girl who “sucked” at sports so I never conceived that I could find success in a realm so out of my comfort zone. But running also taught me never to say never. We must never limit the thinking, hopes and dreams of our students. Right next to my bed, my medal rack states, “She believed she could, so she did” and those words couldn’t be more true. In the words of the story The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds, “Make your mark and see where it takes you.” This is the gift we must give our students and ourselves.

Keep Learning on the Run!

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