If you were to ask my 12th grade AP English teacher he’d tell you that I’m not very good at literary interpretations–I’m the person who read Franz Kafka’s The Trial and thought it was about a very confused man who couldn’t figure out the time and place of his court date (spoiler: its deeper than that.) But I’m a literal person. I’ve been told I’m blunt. Its true.
So I mention my lack of ability to use metaphor…or analogy…or simile (that’s a literary device right…?) to go ahead and warn you I’m gonna try my best in this post.
Going back to 10th grade I remember not making the varsity soccer team because I couldn’t finish a mile in under 12 minutes–there were other reasons as well, namely my lack of coordination that I like to blame on a huge growth spurt, but not being able to finish a mile, in under 12 minutes without stopping was the cut off.–so I was cut. It was gut wrenching because all of my friends made varsity, and I didn’t. I stuck with soccer for the year, playing JV and at some point breaking a 10 minute mile.
Fast forward to 12th grade, I’ve long since moved on from soccer and have shifted my athletic focus to Field Hockey and Lacrosse full time. I played varsity in both and was actively looking to play in college. I was proudly capable of running a 6:30 minute mile. Heck, I could run 6:30 mile and then swoop back to the end of the line of teammates running and cheer them on/set pace for them. I was fit. I was happy. I had a team supporting me/who I supported. Then, I blew out my knee and all visions of college sports went away.
Why am I re-living my high school days? Well, because I’m 2 weeks into re-starting a running routine after more than one decade of lack of practice and I am frustrated with myself. Frustrated that my mind only seems to remember a cadence of the 6:30 minute mile of my youth, a cadence that my current physical fitness level can’t deliver (I know. I know. Can’t deliver yet). I’m frustrated with 18-20 year old me’s for not taking better care of my knee injury. WHY did I not follow through with the physical therapy? Why did I keep on playing sports–high impact sports at that– on a bad knee? (oh yeah, I was a invincible 18 year old…that’s why). I’m frustrated in my refusal to find a team, a running group, a support system–all because I feel like I’m too out of shape to even be in a group. Its too embarrassing.
This morning on the trail when my iPhone running app chimed at me, and a pleasant voice said, “start running” , I replied “F*$% you lady.” There was a stranger running behind me. They laughed. I saw pity in their eyes. I wanted to give up right there. “f*$% it, I’m too old for this” I thought to myself (Sorry, I curse more than I probably should…those of you who know me in real life can attest to this). Hell, I even broke stride and almost did give up running. But I kept going. I’m not sure why. Maybe I remembered the reasons I’m starting to run/workout routine:
- I don’t want to buy new pants.
- I’m tired of being winded walking up that last hill to our house on the way home from taking Z to the park.
- When I was unpacking a big bin from our move I found all of my old rock climbing gear and I want to get in shape so maybe I can use it again.
- I have a knew hiking pack we bought right before I found out I was pregnant with Z and haven’t had the chance to use and I want to go backpacking without being out of breath the whole time so I can’t enjoy the views!
- I want to model positive exercise habits for Z and be physically fit so I can be present when playing with her (and not out of breath).
So I didn’t stop running this morning. I won’t say I did a break-neck pace. But I have resolved I will try to find a running group. Maybe tomorrow I will try to catch my breath enough to ask that other lady I saw out running this morning with the same look of “holy f*$% why am I doing this?” and see if she wants to start a club. I need to find my support group (and I love my husband, but he has two settings: run a 6 minute mile or run 5 miles at a 9 minute pace. He cannot, for the life of him, run at my pace–so for our marriage bliss, we don’t run together 🙂 )
So it was 6am and I was sitting in the driveway, soaked through in sweat from my 30 minutes of walking and running as per the instructions of my darn iPhone, trying to stretch an increasingly crampy calf muscle and looking at a swelling knee and I thought about math. Yep. I’m a math teacher–so its what I do.
Perseverance. How do I craft that habit with my math students? To stop the cycle of quitting when a problem gets hard, or you discover an error in an initial assumption, or you get teacher ink back on an assessment and you don’t ever come back in for tutoring/to reassess. I teach two courses filled with proof (geometry) and modeling (AFM) so my largest teacher headache comes from hearing something along the lines of “ugh, I can’t do this” and try to turn in an incomplete problem with 20 minutes left in a class period.
This is my big mental exercise for the summer. I have a feeling it comes back to the need of a team/support in my running. Building a group dynamic that allows for the vulnerability needed to exercise perseverance. A need to build student’s confidence in being uncertain about where to go/what to do/if a problem is right, so they can take a step back and look at it anew. There’s also a healthy dose of intrinsic motivation, on the student’s part, needed. Something more than “I don’t want to get kicked out of this school” that drives them to dive head first into a math task, to play around with a concept, and to check viabilities of a solution.
I don’t have an answer–yet. I’m doing some reading this summer (currently reaching Classroom Chef, then re-reading Make it Stick) and of course looking through the #MTBoS blogs to see what I can find. We’ll figure this out, my internet math family and I.