I love running. It clears my head, it allows me to have some quiet time to think, and it relieves the stress of the day. I was usually running 3 miles a few times a week. It felt good, wasn’t too difficult, and it was a great way to exercise. Recently, a friend of mine brought up the idea of running a half marathon. I have thought about doing this several times before but never actually followed through with it. I quickly declined and said my 5K runs worked for me. However, I couldn’t get the thought out of my head. I wanted to push myself to run but I wasn’t sure I could actually do it. I decided to start training but the only person I told was the friend that I would be running with. That way, if I didn’t end up actually making it to the race, I wouldn’t be embarrassed. Nobody would know, and I could go right back to my 3-mile runs.
When I started training, I felt better than I thought I would. I was motivated and excited. I decided I needed to tell people that I was running because I knew I would be more likely to follow through with it.
I started thinking about how this process of training was connected to what we do as educators and the similarities between the two journeys.
I have my running schedule posted on our fridge and saved on my phone. Seeing my goal each day is motivating. It keeps the idea of running on my mind. As soon as I made my goal visible and shared it with other people I was more motivated to continue training. Communicating what I am working on has allowed me to engage in conversations with other runners and gain new perspectives and ideas.
It is common to see goals for students posted in the classroom. What about teachers? Do we post what we are working on so that our students can see that goal setting and working to achieve these goals is a practice that will follow them into adulthood? Posting your goal is also a great way to invite others into a conversation. It is quite possible that someone else is working on something similar!
Create a Plan
So, I have talked about how much I love running and I do. But man, sometimes it would be easier to walk! The other morning I felt awful on my run: tired, side pains, leg cramps. The problem was I had eaten horribly the night before, drank two cups of coffee right before I ran, and was dehydrated. I know, simple fixes, but I hadn’t prepared. I finished but it wasn’t pretty and it was far from my best.
In the classroom, many of my lessons were ones that were spontaneous so I am not saying to avoid those teachable moments when they come up. We need to be flexible. However, planning is a must. We need to know what our learning outcomes are, how we will support students and how we will provide feedback along the way. This planning is crucial.
Find Your Support People
When I started running, my oldest son became my biggest supporter. He would meet me half way and bring me water and encourage me to keep going. I looked forward to this halfway point because I knew he would be there to meet me. Two dedicated educators I know, Jess and Kasey, are also two extremely dedicated runners. My Facebook feed often has pictures of their runs because they are training for a marathon. The other day, they posted after running 12 miles but it was the comments that I focused on.
They often talk about their supporters and how they couldn’t run without them. Their family members bring them water, cheer them on during the races and watch their kids so they make time to run.
Educators also need to find their tribe! We need those people that are going to support us, challenge us, and keep us moving even when we aren’t sure that we can. These people could be in a classroom right next to you or halfway around the world. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them! They will keep you sane and moving in the right direction.
Push Through the Hills
My neighborhood is full of hills and running up them isn’t necessarily fun. Do you know what makes hills worse? Thinking about hard the hill is when you are running it! Sometimes, it is too hard for me to look at the top of the hill. I keep my eyes down and take one step at a time. And, before I know it, I am at the top.
As educators, it is easy to become overwhelmed, especially when engaging with something new. When we step our of our comfort zone we are likely to find a few hills. It is okay to take small steps or even one step at at time. Each small step is getting you closer to the top of the hill.
Change is a Process
Change takes time. It can be easy to get discouraged when you don’t see results as quickly as you would like. There are days when I wonder if I am actually going to get to my 13.1 mile goal. I have to remind myself that training takes time and some days are going to be harder than others.
When we start something new in our schools or classrooms the same thing happen. We have days where we are motivated, excited and full of energy. Then, we have other days that we feel like we aren’t making any progress. It is important to remember that moving towards the goal is what is important, even when it seems slow.
This is a hard one! I have to remind myself that taking a day off is necessary for my muscles to recover. Even if I feel great and want to go out and run I know that this rest period will help me get closer to finishing the half marathon.
Educators are the same way! I am often guilty of going a million miles per hour, taking on too many things, and working way too late into the night. It never ends well! It is so important we take time for ourselves and allow our minds to take a break. When we do this, we come back rested, and ready to go.