The Connection Runners + why run?

The Learning Curve

Despite the fact that my work week was cut to four days due to our Chicago Marathon trip, the week still felt painfully long.

The reason? My sophomore English students were working on their Great Gatsby essays, a process that can be time-consuming and rather problematic.

However, lest you think I'm all "Wahhh, I'm just a whiny educator", let me fill you in on the life of a teacher for a moment. Albeit an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling job, teaching is immensely difficult. Thirty-plus students fill my room every period, for four 70-minutes classes per day. Each person is unique - they all have different abilities, needs, wants, and desires.

And I must (attempt) to meet the demands of all.

Add to that minimal time for bathroom breaks, a barely digested cold sandwich eaten during an all-too brief lunch, evaluations looming in the near future, a network printer problem, yearbook software permissions errors, etc... etc... etc... (I could go on, but I'm sure you've heard enough).

So, amid all of that craziness, here I am, in my fourth year teaching and ready to knock this Great Gatsby essay out of the park. I have high expectations heading into the process; I'm going to teach great lessons, the kids will write superb papers, and we'll all be smiling and singing tracks from The Sound Of Music.

Except then I remember that I'm NOT Edward James Olmos in Stand & Deliver or Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act.

The process of teaching and learning is so much more than feel-good film montages featuring students working together, hand-in-hand, without a care in the world.

And so I struggled this week. I struggled to help my sophomores to develop their thought processes, create solid thesis statements, and locate support for their arguments. It was frustrating, at times, to say the least. I wondered what more I could do to help them, to get them to understand.

Then, at some point in the week, I thought about running.

Yes, I always think about running, but this time it was different.

I thought of myself as a runner, particularly back in those days when I was striving to turn a half-mile walk into a solid 3-mile run. Or when I was attempting to set a new distance or time PR. Or when I was agonizing over shin splints and sore quads.

I thought about how The Learning Curve exists no matter what it is we are trying to accomplish.

Writing an essay, running a mile. They're really one and the same. Both challenges present us with a fear - the fear of the unknown.

How can I get started on my introduction?
How can I get started on my run?

What do I do in my body paragraphs again?
What do I do when I want to quit halfway through my planned mileage?

What is the point of a conclusion?
What is the point of being a runner?

So, in spite of the week's grueling pressure, I somehow managed to get through it all by thinking about this process as just another run where I'm learning to improve my form and pace. I have to learn every day how to become a better teacher, just as my students will learn every day to become better thinkers and writers.

And that's one lesson I can totally get down with.

What learning curves have you been dealing with lately?

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The Learning Curve + why run?