5 Ways Running Has Made Me A Better Teacher


Screenshot 2016-08-27 at 9.22.15 AM

I’ve been running for a few years now and this summer I’ve been training to run my first half marathon which takes place in October.  My training has been easy at times and grueling most others.

One of the best things that has happened to me besides my improved health and fitness has been the growth I feel I have made as a teacher.  During my run this morning, I thought about all the ways training this summer has helped me be a better teacher:

1. The journey is more important than pace. — The heat of the summer made my runs more challenging.  It was hot, humid, and sticky even before sunrise.  Research has shown hot conditions like this to be effective for runners training for high-altitude races, a fact that is a real bummer for me since Ohio is as flat as a pool table.  What really bummed me out was that the heat was affecting my pace, adding almost a minute to my average pace.  I had to shift my focus from pace to logging miles.  I needed to forget worrying about my pace and remind myself that these conditions would pay off in the long run.

Teaching connection:  As teachers, we know the amount of material we are faced with helping students learn over the course of a year.  It’s nearly impossible to get to it all and yet we go for it anyway.  We feel like we need to get to that next step in the curriculum because we are running out of time.  However, training has helped me truly see that it’s more important to focus on the journey than to dwell solely on that next milestone.  The challenge we face is in resisting curricular demands and replacing them with our students’ learning needs.

2.  Staying fueled with a growth mindset helped me overcome challenges. — When you hit mile 7 on a swampy summer morning, or at minute 20 of a tempo pace workout, it’s easy to justify fixed mindset thinking such as, “You don’t really need to do this,” or “It’s too hot to be able to do this”.  I had to force myself to think, “You got this” — It has become my mantra and something I will say to myself when I cross the finish line.

Teaching connection: Helping our students see how important it is to use positive self talk can go a long way to helping them develop a growth mindset.  It’s an uphill battle and one that each person struggles to win, but talking students through this struggle can help them understand that it’s a normal part of the learning process.

3. Using benchmarks to keep on pace is helping me build the skills necessary for the race. — The good people at Columbus Running Company created a chart of pace times that were all connected to a race time goal.  My goal finish time is 1 hour and 45 minutes.  I am determined to reach that goal and I know that each time my foot hits the pavement, I’m getting one step closer.  The chart has been my guidepost, a way of holding myself accountable on my runs and knowing these goals motivates me to work harder.

Teaching connection:  Helping students know the “why” or what the end goal for each learning experience can be highly motivating, especially if they have had a say in what that goal can be.

4. Metrics are important, but so is listening to your instincts. — Sometime the pace chart needed to go out the window.  There one day a few weeks ago when I was supposed to do a speed workout on the track but I knew that my body probably couldn’t handle it so I just ran the miles at a comfortable pace instead.  I was still tired from the workout, but I was able to be present with my family instead of a spiritless zombie.

Teaching connection:  We believe in teaching the whole child, so with that comes knowing when a student is tired, grumpy or hungry because these are the factors that can’t be written into a lesson plan; we just need to adjust and adapt.

5. Enjoy every step. — I’ve learned to love sweat.  I’ve learned to run with a water bottle.  I’ve learned to appreciate Body Glide. I’ve learned not to fear the bats I see that fly around the trail in the predawn hours.  I’ve learned almost all the lyrics to every Black Keys album.  But the best lesson I’ve learned is to appreciate that I get to experience all of this. I’m lucky that I have the time and ability to do this.

Teaching connection:  It’s a cliche, but one that I don’t take for granted: We change the world one student at a time.  Every interaction we have with kids leaves an impression on them and it can either be positive or negative.  We can’t take this for granted and we need to remember how intentional we need to be with our interactions.

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