Tag Archives: fun

26.2 Reasons Why

I ran a marathon on Saturday. Never thought I’d do that.

at the finish line

at the finish line

I know some people in my life think I am more than a little bit crazy. That there are better ways for me to have spent hours of my life this fall. That I’m even more crazy for spending a good part of today signing up for new races. That just because I can doesn’t mean I should.

And that’s fine. They can think that. I did this for me, but just in case it’s important for me to have other reasons to do incredible things like run marathons, here are 26.2 other reasons why I spent 4 hours, 32 minutes, and 11 seconds putting one foot in front of the other.

Wanna know why I ran a marathon?

I ran a marathon because:

  1. Of the free T-shirt. Ha, ok, not really. The shirt is pretty nice, though.
  2. I signed up for the damn thing. Early, so I couldn’t duck out.
  3. My mom taught me to stick to my commitments. Like I said, I was stuck.
  4. My hip was not broken. I thought it was for a couple weeks there.
  5. That first 5k was awesome. August, 2011. Big House, Big Heart. I’ll never forget it.
  6. Of Boston. The attacks last year left some racers incapable of ever racing again, and shattered a community of people who, despite being perfect strangers, love and support one another.
  7. My first year exam pushed me out the front door. One day in May, I just couldn’t stand it any more. I needed to get the hell outta the house and away from that exam.
  8. My sister looks up to me. Sorta. She’s taller than me, but you get the point.
  9. Of graduate school. ‘Nuf said.
  10. I like jelly beans. And I bring them with me as fuel. And it’s the only time I don’t feel guilty about shoving candy down my gullet.
  11. Of the silence. Those 5:30am runs, when all I can hear is my shoes on the pavement.
  12. I needed a break from taking care of the puppy. Imagine if I had kids?
  13. In middle school I dropped out of track because I was a wimp. And a whiner. And that’s not ok.
  14. Of PT. My physical therapist spent a lot of time fixing me when I broke myself last year.
  15. In one night, 175 perfect strangers supported me. No, “likes” to my Facebook page about my running shouldn’t matter. But dammit, they do, especially two days away from the starting line.
  16. I like to run. Seriously.
  17. Lots of people can’t. I’m not talking about people who won’t. I’m talking about people who wish they could, but because of crippling injuries and disabilities, actually can’t.
  18. Of all the shoes. They need replaced every 500 miles. And I love shoe shopping.
  19. It was for a good cause. Indianapolis public schools, to be specific.
  20. Of the dude in mile 25 handing out water. He looked me in the eye when I looked like death and told me I looked like a million bucks and I could do this.
  21. My dissertation is not allowed to take over my life. It just isn’t.
  22. My friend Melody supported me. Early, often, and with a smile, even when I was slowing her down. She sent me a link to the registration for that first race.
  23. My friend Tonya inspired me. We started running around the same time. When I could barely go six miles, she was running half marathons.
  24. I love to eat. A lot.
  25. Of my husband. He inspires me. He pushes me. He amazes me.
  26. I didn’t think I could. Multiple times in the past few months, I have doubted my ability to go the distance.

And reason number 26.2: BECAUSE I CAN. And as it turns out, that IS a reason to do this particular thing. As a blogger/runner friend of mine points out, the marathon journey isn’t at all about the race, it’s about what you have overcome and what you have promised to yourself:

Completing a marathon is not about the race itself, but what the training has come to represent.  The race is simply a culmination and a celebration of that individual’s responsibility to themselves.

So yeah, I’m probably a little crazy. And sure, there are plenty of reasons NOT to run a marathon. These are just a few reasons why I big fat did it anyway.

(More) Reflections from NCTE: Evolving Experiences

I’m going to do something in this post that I usually reserve for my other blog, The FYEwhich is reflect on my own development/thoughts/work. This blog is typically a space to post all the stuff others are up to, things I find, and my opinions about issues in education that come across my feeds. But today, folks, I’ll be talking about me. Me and NCTE, that is.

This past trip to Vegas was not a vacation, that’s for sure. I didn’t really get to “do” or “see” Vegas at all (well, except for the evening walk up the strip with some amazing and hysterical teachers from Boulder… ThePaperGraders themselves, to be exact, and a couple of their other colleagues).

Speaking of The Paper Graders, one of them (Doc Z) wrote this haiku on their blog:

Don’t you dare count up

my haiku syllables okay?

must. Go. To. Sleep. Now.

I told her while we were walking the strip that I count her haiku syllables. Ha. (Yes, Doc Z, I did count your syllables, and there are eight in the middle row. Way to be a rebel.)

And speaking of Doc Z, here we are waiting for the fountain at the Bellagio to spill thousands of gallons of water into the middle of the desert air:

Anyway, this trip was intense. I spent most of it running around like a crazy person because I wanted to see everyone I never get to see when I’m in Michigan, because I wanted to network, because I wanted to make sure I got to a couple key sessions, because I wanted to introduce some people to some other people, because I left late so was only there for two nights… you get my drift. On the last day, I presented, gobbled down some lunch, and jumped onto a shuttle to the airport. I was operating at mach schnell from the minute I got there to the minute I left. Exhausting.

But also: awesome, and awesomely different from previous go-rounds…

The first time I attended NCTE four years ago in Philly, I had finished up my master’s degree and was teaching high school in Indiana. It wasn’t my first conference ever, but it was my first national conference and my first NCTE, and it was overwhelming. I was unable to focus on the conference until after I presented on Saturday afternoon due to nerves. The only people I hung out with were my fellow presenters. I missed some important things because I was trying to figure out how to navigate the program (and the gigantic convention center).

As I move through this process, though, I meet new people in other places — people I need to catch up with at NCTE, when we all descend upon a single city. NCTE becomes less about my session (I barely thought about it while I was there) and more about all the people I want to learn from, catch up with, and meet.

Oh right — I presented. You can link to my slides here and my talk (with click cues and everything) here. My co-presenter, Tiffany Sedberry, went first and talked about how beginning, experienced, and veteran teachers narrate their experiences with teaching in different ways. I followed and talked about identity binaries in the media and in the literature. The basic argument: stop essentializing teachers by placing them into categorical bins. no really. stop it.

The presentation went really well, was well attended (a minor miracle since we were last day, last session), and made me realize how far my work, thinking, and ability to present at conferences has come in the past four years. Looking back on my experience in Philly, I can tell that not only my delivery but also my background knowledge has come a long way since then. So I guess this PhD thing I’m doing is actually resulting in some growth. Good to know, since almost everything I do nowadays makes me realize how much I don’t know.

On the plane ride home, I sat next to a teacher from the suburbs of Chicago. We had never met before, but we talked to each other for the entirety of that 4-hour flight. About teaching. About teaching English. But also about her dog, her husband, my husband, her kid, her pregnancy, marriage in general, our travels, great books, and many other topics. The perfect way to end my NCTE experience. I’ll probably never see her again — her name was Amy — but I hope I do. Because like everyone at NCTE, like most teachers I’ve met, she’s good people.

Looking forward to Boston, that’s for sure.

As Promised… Some Pepto

Yesterday’s reading and my subsequent post were a little depressing, so I set out to find something a little more uplifting today. I’m sad to say this took me a little longer than I had hoped it would, but I did, indeed, find something to soothe my nausea (and stress).

On ACSD InService, Bryan Harris posted 10 tips for building teacher resiliency. Teachers need to have some resiliency in the face of a lot of nauseating policy and media attacks these days, and I like Bryan’s advice.

But what I like about this post is its far-reaching applicability to other aspects of my life, too — PhDing, and all that goes with it. I think these words apply to teachers across grade levels and disciplines, and hell, even across professions. The top ten ways to remain resilient?

  1. Maintain perspective. In challenging or stressful times, remind yourself that you are a difference maker.  In what other profession do you have the chance to daily impact a person’s entire life?
  2. Control your calendar. Create time for family, exercise, and fun activities. Actually place those times on your calendar and promise yourself that you’ll follow through on commitments to yourself.  If you find it difficult to leave school at a reasonable hour, place an alarm on your calendar or phone as a reminder to go home.
  3. Deal with conflict or difficult issues quickly and honestly. Remember what your dentist says –Rarely do problems get better by ignoring them.
  4. Take care of your body. Diet, exercise, and sleep are fundamental to dealing with stress and building resiliency. Don’t succumb to the lame excuse that you don’t have the time or money to be healthy. You need to take care of yourself so that you can be healthy enough to take care of other people.
  5. Find a professional passion. It can be a challenge to keep current on educational trends, research, and best practices. One of the best ways to stay current is to find and cultivate a professional passion. Find what you love most about teaching and learning and dive in and become an expert.
  6. Embrace change. In the last 10 years, our profession has had to embrace change like no other time in the past. Rightfully, our communities hold high expectations for us and our students deserve the very best. If you are teaching the same lessons, using the same materials, with the same strategies as you did 5 years ago, it may be time to shake things up.
  7. Laugh. Humor is one of the best ways to combat stress and it helps to place difficult or challenging situations into the proper perspective. Plus, a good laugh makes you feel better and makes you more pleasant to be around.
  8. Avoid complaining. This is true for #6 and complaining about students, parents, co-workers, policy, school leadership, or the profession in general. There is no such thing as a perfect school or a perfect organization. Work to make things better but remember, the grass is rarely greener on the other side.  Maybe re-read # 3, also.
  9. Develop a professional support network. Because this profession can be lonely, we need to find ways to support each other. Avoid the temptation to stay isolated in your classroom; seek out fellow educators for support and collaboration.
  10. Take a risk. Stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone and try something new. After all, we ask kids to take a risk on a daily basis.  We ask them to learn something new, to try something they’ve never tried, and to be better than they were the day before. So be a model for your kids. If you fail, laugh and learn how to be better next time. If you succeed, celebrate.

I’m pretty good at 2, 4, 5, 9, and 10. Friends will tell you I struggle with being a risk-taker, but usually I’m willing to take risks with students, who never fail to surprise me with what they can do. I think I could stand to complain less, embrace change more, and maintain perspective… I think I’ll take these words with me today as I head in to campus, make copies for the first day of class tomorrow, attend what will be one of the last official “classes” I ever take in my life (weird), and spend time laughing with friends this evening. I invite you to do the same.


And on a More Uplifting Note… Teaching, Calvinball Style

The Nerdy Teacher posted this on Friday — a plea for educators to embrace the creativity of Calvinball. Go to his post to see the Calvin and Hobbes excerpts about Calvinball. The Nerdy Teacher says,

We are moving more and more toward standardized, cookie-cutter instruction, I think a nice dose of Calvinball (AKA Creativity) is exactly what our classrooms need. Giving the students to freedom to explore and create can be a scary idea to teachers, administrators and “experts” that like to control things, but we all know the power of empowering children. Letting go of the control and allowing students to explore is such an amazing thing to witness. I didn’t “let go” all at once. I’m still “letting go” a little bit more each year. When the unit ends, I’m always glad I let the students create their rules and design their own projects.

I completely agree. In an interview with a teacher last week, she told me “the kids always rise to the challenge” when you give them some freedom and some control over what happens in the classroom, when you make things matter to them by giving them the chance to help you design their learning experiences.

After my grumpy post earlier this morning, this is my attempt to even things out. Thanks, Nerdy Teacher, for the smile and the uplifting reminder that we need to stay creative. 🙂