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On Becoming a Runner…

Background info first:  Yesterday morning, I ran in my second annual Bellin Run in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  It was a phenomenal experience–record attendance (over 18,000 people), nice weather (in the high 50’s)…and so much more! 

Now, I’ve never given thought to calling myself a “runner;” just last week, in training with our 3rd through 6th grade students for the Bellin Thunder Team, we actually ran 2 miles in 90-something degree temps.  Shortly after that grueling experience, I headed into town for some shopping–on my way there, I noticed a middle-aged man out on his own run.  My first honest thought?  “What an IDIOT!”–right before I realized I had, no less, done exactly the same thing that day!  Was the hard wiring in my brain changing?  I began to get worried!

But yesterday’s achievements made all of those punishing practices and somewhat foolhardy decisions worthwhile.  (And I’m giving myself the day off from any extended body torture today!)

Reflecting back on yesterday’s physical and mental achievement, I  discovered there are a multitude of parallels between being an astute educator of nearly 20 years, and becoming a runner; here are a few of my favorites–perhaps you can relate, and add to this list:

  • The worthwhile paybacks always make up for the agonizing setbacks. Pulled muscles, sore sides, and blistered feet are just some of the unfortunates that happen in the running world, just as disgruntled parents, uncooperative students and attendance issues may disrupt our best intentions in the classroom.  But nothing can diminish my enthusiasm for teaching when I see the incredible growth in these young people each year, or when they stop by my classroom, all  grown up, to remind me of the positive influence I had on their lives.  Likewise, after crossing that finish line yesterday morning, I felt absolutely wonderful…ready to sign up for next year, with no memory of the strains and pains I’d endured to get that far.
  • There’s a lot to be said about having a strong mindset and game face.  Wanting to do something, whether teaching, running, or otherwise, is something anyone can do; it takes a great deal of strong commitment to keep you on the path to success.  The moment you stop trying to improve yourself, you begin to stagnate.
  • Everyone’s looking for a mentor; everyone needs a cheering section.  It’s so humbling to hear someone say, “You are such an inspiration to me.”  What’s so fascinating about that is the reciprocity factor:  these same people are often the ones I’m looking to for inspiration and drive, when I’m feeling like I’m coming up short on the run or on ideas for my classroom.  And there’s nothing that beats a good, old-fashioned pat on the back for a job well done.  My phone and Facebook account were filled with good luck wishes yesterday, and they really carried me through those last 2 miles.  The very best part of all?  Catching up to my 11-year old son at Mile 5, encouraging him to keep going, and crossing the finish line…together.  That’s the kind of support I give, and the kind I love.
  • Goal-setting is critical, but can do nothing for you without Action.  Sometimes active pursuit of one goal helps you reach many more that you never imagined!  My teaching experience has provided me with wonderful experiences, awards and accolades; all those just happened through my strong drive to help children become active learners in an exciting, ever-changing environment.  Likewise, I’ve put a great deal of commitment into running this spring and summer–mostly to put my heart in better condition than it was (last year, when I ran the Bellin, my heart rate soared into the 200’s…not good!  I didn’t do very well at all…).  The diligence of my running practice has paid off in a multitude of ways; I’ve lost over 25 pounds, feel stronger and healthier, and can keep my heart rate below 185 without even thinking about it.  That, and I shaved off nearly 50 minutes from last year’s run time. 
  • Feels great crossing that finish line, but it doesn’t mean you’re finished…there will always be that next big curriculum change, that next difficult student, class, or parent…just as there will always be that next challenge for me as a runner (which is sometimes just getting OUT there and doing it).  Showing up is the first step; the next, for me, is to ask myself, “What do you intend to do now?”…..then bring it to reality.

Here’s to all of my running buddies on the Thunder Bellin team, and to all those who enrich my teaching career:  You are such an inspiration to me! 

…and now I’ll enjoy my “day-after’s rest,” while I search for some community running events for next month…I’m ready to bring it, all over again!  Guess that means that I’ve crossed another finish line–from becoming–to being–a runner, after all. 😀

Enjoy the day!


Baby Steps

No matter how much experience I have with technology, the newest stuff still tends to freeze me up a bit at first.  Take my first un-conference, for example–yesterday at EdcampChicago–I arrived early, and began my morning by entering the wrong part of the high school!  A colleague (and shirt-tail relative) of mine had made the journey with me, and I was so grateful for that!  Didn’t help us from walking into the wrong Saturday program, though!  So, we asked to be pointed in the right direction, and then made our second entrance into the unknown for the day.

My first impression?  Well, I saw a number of people, nearly everyone with some mobile device or laptop in hand, busily working (on WHAT?), and mostly operating on their own.  I told my Cece, my conference buddy, that I’d watch our stuff while she helped some people bring in the breakfast items, happily thinking of this free food as the first really cool surprise this event had to offer.  Oh, and it was, by the way–as was our incredible lunch!

Of course, once the food (and coffee!) arrived, then things started gaining momentum.  By the end of that whirlwind experience on Saturday afternoon, I felt I had indulged both my mental and physical selves, as well as uplifted my spirits with all of the positive, pro-education karma that ran rampant in that building.

On the way home, Cece and I shared bits and pieces from the sessions we’d separately attended.  We were both in awe of the integrity and approachability of the great folks who presented, as well as the instant camaraderie we felt with the entire group in attendance. Then, near the end of our return trip home, Cece suggested something foreign to me, and I felt my calm, collected self freezing up again…

“You know, Joan, you should start a blog…”

My initial response was something to the tune of “I don’t have time to do that!”  I’m not positive I said that out loud at the moment, but that’s definitely what I was hearing–loud and clear–in my head.  I had already joked with Cece that a friend of mine has volunteered to be my coach in a fictitious “12 Steps to Say No” program.  I have an extreme habit of over-multi-tasking, (which is easily identified by my need to extend words like ‘multi-tasking’ in the first place), and those who work closely with me have all good intentions of keeping me from overextending myself.  So I said no, and put it out of my head.

Until today.

So here it is, my very first post on my very own blog.  I gave it some thought (a whole mornings’ worth), and decided that this would be an experiment in sharing what I know about education, as well as life outside the school building, in the hopes that those with similar passions and hobbies will find this a place to learn from me, to teach me, and to pass it on.  That was the underlying premise of the un-conference, I believe, and I feel inspired to, well, pass it on.  Enjoy the day!

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