Re-thinking learning for the 21st Century

Layered like Onions

keyboard smashMy lack of posting is not for a lack of thought, but for an inability to find the right words. Without any doubt, there’s been a huge shift in our profession; workload, balls in the air, various hats, everything has astronomically changed.

Here are some ways I’ve changed what I am doing…running has gotten a whole less intense. I feel like that’s how life has gotten to cope with the pandemic stress. Long runs are shorter, and what in the world are speed workouts? It’s been awhile since I’ve done one of those. But who really cares? I’ve really gotten comfortable with being okay with what I can do in the moment. Remember, teaching is a marathon…we have to pace smart, I’ve never hit the wall in a marathon and I don’t plan to start now.

Like many of you, I am sure COVID-19 has profoundly change the oncall situation at your school, especially when a running nose is enough to have your child or you stay home from school. I personally felt like there was a pivot in oncall culture in that anyone who needed an oncall needed it to take care of their child, themselves or a family member for something COVID related. Teachers were requesting oncalls like toilet paper was flying off shelves and we needed to try our best to be available for oncalls to support our team. It felt like any other reasons for oncalls were  “unfair” as you would be adding strain to an already strained system…but…I had an amazing chance for something super cool!

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I had an celebrity moment. I was asked to do something pretty darn cool (in my biased point of view), but there was just one problem: it fell on a school day. I was asked to participate in a big running campaign about “Runners who Inspire” and how runners have stayed motivated during this pandemic. This included a full day photoshoot and commercial shoot. I mean, it was an AMAZING opportunity–but during a pandemic, can I really take a personal day for something run related? Watching my colleagues stress and stretched thin by the oncall system and watching them run in circles about what to do with their child’s running nose or cough…could I really take a day to do something not COVID/teaching related? I was immersed in so much guilt, but when in my life would I get a chance like this again…?! What would you do?

One of my superiors was incredibly frustrated with the oncall system and on a day I was going to ask their opinion about taking a day to pursue this opportunity (before knowing what I was going to ask) they looked and me and said, “are people really requesting oncalls for non-emergencies? Don’t they realized how strained the system is with COVID-19 right now?! If you take an oncall when it’s not essential, you’re just adding strain to your colleagues…who are already burning out.”

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So if I didn’t feel guilty enough, let’s throw in a bucket of guilt that just got dumped on me. Is running essential? Depends how you look at it. Could I live without it? Sure. Would my mental health be in a good place? No. Then, I thought about something my first boss told me in my very first teaching job:

You’re not an Olympian. At some point, you need to pick between your career and running. You can’t have both. 

Was I forcing running again? Was I adding work to my coworkers to pursue a passion that no one else cared about? But, I did also disagree with the idea that you can’t both run and have a career in teaching. Queue in my sweet dear students who have been sending e-mails such as:

  • “thank you for caring so much about us, it makes us want to keep working hard”
  • “thanks for always checking-in with me, it means a lot”
  • “thank you for wanting me to organize myself”
  • “thank you for investing time in me”

Yesterday, when I stepped out of my classroom to go to the washroom, my lovely grade 10s put together this little creative card…

FYI…I am still running and I am still teaching. The feedback from my students give me confidence that doing both is working out just fine. I am not aiming to be a professional runner, I am just aiming to pursue a passion that gives me balance, self-care and makes me happy.

This is where I think we need to remember who we are as teachers. Pandemic teaching is pandemic teaching, but we are here to mentor and be role models. We are here to share our identity in safe ways so that our students have guidance in ways approach life and learning. We are here to facilitate meaningful relationships and if you dig through my old blog posts, that’s what I keep talking about!

Safe spaces. Student relationships. Socio-emotional learning. Wellness…teacher AND student.

In my last blog post, I said the following:

“We have to show our students what balance and sustainability looks like. We have to be role models to show what prioritizing mental health and well-being looks like. We have to be examples to show how students can be healthy and live a lifestyle where health (physical and mental) is a priority.”

I just thought…how awesome is it to be selected to be one of three runners who will be in Canada-wide campaign…nationwide. If anything, I should be celebrating, right? Yet, all I could feel was guilt thinking about how much I would strain my colleagues for a personal, selfish opportunity.

Then I realized–if it weren’t for COVID, what would my thoughts be about this? Do we just stop being who we were in this pandemic? Yes, we are pandemic teaching, yes we are high-flex and pivoting every second of our day, but we are also every single piece of who we are before this virus hit the globe. What am I modelling for students by doing this?

follow your heart

If you’re wondering whether or not I did the shoot, I did, and it was the coolest experience ever. Surprisingly, it’s a lot of running to shoot a 30 second commercial or for that ONE cool shot. It took about 10 hours of constantly running the same 100-150m stretch 5-6 times, and then moving to a new location to repeat. It was such a humbling and amazing experience, I’d love to show you some photos from the shoot, but alas, I am not allowed to. Instead, I have some cool photos taken by a handy dandy cell phone that we were requested to post to social! 

After this all ended, I thought about this shoot a lot and felt I needed to remind myself what we are showing our students during this pandemic. We are role modelling ways to take on life. What am I aiming to accomplish for my students by doing this? I want to show my students what it means to pursue a passion. I want to show students what it’s like to have goals and to chase them (pun intended). I want to show students that you can learn something later in life, work hard and become so much better at it. I came to running in my adulthood and started at a 43 minute 5km…and now I’ve run the Boston marathon–more than once!?! Doesn’t even feel like me. Click here  if you’re new to this space and have no idea what I am talking about.

I don’t want students to see my for the runner I am today, that’s really not that cool. I want students to see me for the journey I took to get here today. I want to show them that progression is life-long and you’re never ever done. I want them to know that you are more than your career and that you are a person with many layers and experiences. Throw that together with a bunch of other people with different layers and experiences, and you get some pretty darn cool teams.

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What are the layers to your onion? I’d love to hear about others’ passions!! 

4 Comments

  1. Garth Nichols

    Thanks @mlu, for this post that I believe that many of us can relate to! I know that for me, running has taken on a different meaning and purpose because there are no upcoming events, and like you, I took up Triathlons later in life, and love the learning that comes with this relatively new experience. There are layers and layers of learning for triathlon completion and success for sure.

    In Cohort 21 Season 2 and Season 3, I spoke about Canadian Triathlete Paula Findley and her journey as one of resilience and learning. In the 2012 Olympics, she finished last of the 52 athletes, but became a media-darling in the way that she made herself so vulnerable in front of all Canadians, apologizing. My message was that resilience didn’t mean finishing a race eventhough you knew you would finish last, it was about what she decided to do after this crushing experience, and that was to integrate the experience and keep going.

    Last weekend, she won the first even Professional Triathlon Organization event in Daytona by over 3mins. The last 500m of the run portion is an incredible sporting moment!

    Thanks for your post, and for your example of how to keep going, even when it’s not what you necessarily signed up for, and for sticking to you ‘why’.

    I’d love to hear from our Cohort 21 runners and cyclists too! @edaigle @jmedved @lmacbeth @ddoucet @elee @jshephard @acampbellrogers

    Garth.

    • maylu

      Now I have to look up Paula Findley! How awesome is that story?! Also, just looking through all her photos and reading her story…these things always make me jaw drop. It’s just so so so SO cool what we can do. Our bodies are incredible, our minds are seriously crazy…throw the two together and WOW!

    • Esther Lee

      @mlu and @gnichols, thanks for starting this conversation and sharing your onion layers! Running has always been my most consistent form of therapy, especially in the past couple years and during the pandemic. And it’s interesting how much your activity of choice can become so deeply infused in your sense of self. When I was pregnant during the pandemic and reached a point I couldn’t run anymore I sort of went through an existential crisis! It also made me re-examine its meaning and purpose, and work on separating my ability to run with my self-worth. Many layers for sure and evolution within those layers as well!

      • maylu

        RIGHT?! I honestly am so thankful for running as it really keeps my centred while teaching through the pandemic! I have stopped workouts too because I am too scared to be injured (and it’s really tiring to teach during the pandemic!). I know if I get injured and can’t use running as an outlet, I would really struggle to find balance and prioritize self-care 🙂

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