Thursday, March 28, 2013

Challenging Myself


I teach my students that life is about finding and meeting challenges. Too often those "smart kids" breeze through elementary school and barely lift a finger. Does this teach them to learn? No, it teaches them that to see themselves as "smart" and "successful" they must go through life without putting forth any effort.

What happens to those same kids when they get into challenging classes? Maybe it's a middle school math class. Maybe it's high school philosophy or physics or AP English. Maybe that kick in the pants doesn't come until college, or even graduate school. When their face hits a wall, and they fall down, what happens then? Some will accept the failure as a learning opportunity, pick themselves back up, and proceed to conquer their personal mountain. Some will decide that perhaps they aren't good enough or smart enough to continue to climb. They'll settle down in that exact location and refuse to move.

Every day, my job is to push my students a little bit more. I'm like a personal trainer, you see. I watch each one, spotting them as they strain with a weight that may be just a little bit too heavy. I want them to falter, under my watchful eye. That's the only way I can be sure they know that struggle is part of the game.

So - do I practice what I preach? Sometimes.

I did push myself to complete a master's degree in gifted education, even though it required a lot of hard work and dedication. And yet... that was several years ago. I've rested on my laurels for a bit too long, and I run the risk of losing sight of the same kinds of self-challenges I require of my kids each day.

About a week ago, I realized that I'm getting older. (Wait, do I call myself smart? Perhaps the passage of time should have been something I noticed sooner, huh?) I can't just sit back and hope to stay healthy and mentally alert. This Slicing challenge is great - but it doesn't really push me past my comfort zone.

What else can I do? How can I take myself one step farther than I am right now? (Okay, English teachers... when exactly do I use farther and when is it further??)

About a week ago, I sent out a single tweet saying I was going to start the Couch to 5K challenge. Yeah, one single tweet. Pretty lame declaration. So now I'm stating it here - for all my Slicing pals and #RunTeacherRun friends to see.

The excuses run faster than I do.
I'm not a runner. I've never been a runner.
I don't have the right shoes.
The weather is yucky and I hate to be cold.
My knees hurt and I've never liked to run.
Have I mentioned I'm not a runner?

You know what? Screw that. Maybe I won't actually be able to run the whole distance. Maybe my 5K will require me to walk a chunk of it. And maybe I don't ever accept this kind of excuse-making from my students. So why do I accept it from myself?

Time to get off my rear and make sure that I can enjoy the rest of my wonderful life. Any advice for a newbie runner out there?



I'm participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge, hosted by the amazing educators at Two Writing Teachers. Stop by to see what others are posting!

Also - if you stop by and comment, and you are also slicing - PLEASE feel free to include your URL in the comments. With over 200 people slicing, it is often hard to go find your specific link on the Two Writing Teachers page, and I'd love to come read YOUR slice too!

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