Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Running Is Like Teaching...Or Something Like That

I've been mulling lately--usually while I'm out there, pounding the pavement--about how my life has improved in many ways since I've gotten serious about running. Running has brought a certain calm to my life (I certainly sleep better) and an increased ability to focus. It has taught me that I really can see things through.

It's actually made me a better teacher, in some ways.

Stay with me. It turns out that there's something to be learned from running that can help other areas of your life--in my case, teaching. Here's a few:

1. There will be bad days. Just get out there and do it again tomorrow.

We've all had them--those days when your shoes don't lace up quite right, or your shins splint. Your gastrointestinal system revolts, your knee twinges. Any number of things can take a run from good to "Oh, hell no" in a matter of minutes. Teaching is like that, too. There are days I leave school truly believing I never want to see my kids again.

And yet, there I am, the very next day, lacing my shoes up for a pain-free run, or finding myself in the middle of a fantastic rehearsal with great kids. I've learned that I just have to great every new day with a determined, positive attitude.

2. Don't let one small pain become a big-ass deal.

A few weeks ago, I started off on an easy run, and almost immediately noticed a small twinge of pain in my right knee. "Oh, great," I thought. "That's going to make it hard to run four miles."

After a few minutes, and coming very close to abandoning my run, I decided to suck it up and think about something else. I forced my brain to focus on another topic--probably something to do with music, but I don't remember now--and wouldn't you know it? Within a few minutes, there was no pain in my knee. I logged a successful run that day.

It happens in classrooms, too. You start off a class period chipper and happy, only to have a student or two walk into the room with that look about them. "Oh, fantastic," you think to yourself. "When this student is in a bad mood, everyone within thirty yards of him/her seems to magically pick up on it."

I've learned not to cater to those moods. There are days I stand up there and act downright clownish to keep the mood in the room from going to hell. Because whatever I choose to focus on--good or bad--is what is going to determine how things go--in running and in my classroom.

3. You can't make that cool-looking shoe fit.

Every six months or so, it's off to Fleet Feet I go for a new pair of running shoes. If I'm lucky, whatever shoe I happen to be using is still being made, and I'm in and out in under ten minutes with a sparkly pair of shoes under my arm, and $120 less in my bank account.

But shoe manufacturers are always "improving" and every so often, my favorite shoe gets phased out. That's when I get fitted for a new shoe, and the associate at Fleet Feet brings out three or four pairs of cool-looking shoes.

There's always that one pair--you know, the one that has my favorite colors, and a really cool shape to it. Something in the design instantly draws my eye, and the other shoes pale in comparison. But I gamely try them all on...and find that the really cool shoe isn't the best fit for my foot.

It's the same in a classroom. Sometimes I come up with a sparkly, awesome song idea and I proudly put it out there to my kids...only to have it not fit. I used to try and force my grand ideas on my classes, only to have it blow up spectacularly in my face. These days, I adapt, and go for music that works for them, music that will make them feel successful.

4. Waitaminute...this really isn't so bad!

A few years before I started running--at a time when "Meg" and "running" in the same sentence elicited loud laughter and a "Hell no!!" response, I watched the British movie Chariots of Fire and marveled at how one dude in that opening beach scene was smiling. While running.

Smiling. Running. At the same time.

Fast-forward to sometime in 2012, and one day I was running in my neighborhood when I realized...I was smiling. Holy moly.

Teaching gets this reputation as being this truly difficult career. I'm not saying it's easy, but really, if you build a routine and stick to it, your days go by and you muddle through the small crises and weird interruptions well enough.

What I'm getting at is that if you stick with it--running and teaching--you start to find that it's really not quite as difficult as you thought at the beginning. Sure, there's some pain in running, and a lot of bureaucracy in teaching, but whatever. It's certainly not easy, or perfect, but at the end of the work day, and at the end of the long run...it's absolutely worth it.

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