Thursday, February 13, 2014

Guest Blog: Ponderings from the Treadmill

I am very excited to introduce our new Guest Blogger!  April Chauvette is our secondary counterpart in the world of LISD mathematics.  April is a Secondary Math Facilitator and mostly works with grades 6, 7 and 8.  She is also our "go to girl" for everything middle school.  We love collaborating with April and appreciate her educational and mathematical insights.  Please join us in welcoming her and thank you April for your pondering . . .   

So, I’ve decided start running more frequently.  It all started with a twitter post from Principal Salome Thomas-EL urging faculty and followers to live a healthier life and challenging them to be a part of #500in2014 (as in running 500 miles in 2014). 
Let me be clear, I am no marathoner.  I’m in decent enough shape, but don’t consistently go out running, its rather sporadic.  And while I don’t mind running and actually kind of enjoy it (if only my HS coaches could hear that!) I seldom do it.  For whatever crazy reason though, I decided to accept this twitter challenge and am working to stay on pace to be able complete the 500 miles this year (it’s only about 10 miles per week right?!?).

I really am going somewhere with this, so bear with me…Like I said, I’m in decent enough shape.  When I did actually run before, my natural pace was around a 10-minute mile over my general 2 to 3 mile path.  Not bad, in my estimation. Not going to blow anyone out of the water, but solid enough. 

But as the crazy Texas winter of 2014 has unfolded, I’ve found myself at the gym on the treadmill more than normal.  My MO had been to hop on the treadmill, adjust my tunes, and crank it up to 5.8 mph to get started.   (While I know you can do the math, 6 mph is a 10-minute mile.)  So I’d start at 5.8 (just below my typical pace) for a ½ mile or so and then eek it up 0.1 mph every so often (to keep challenging myself over the run) then a little more than half way through the run, I’d start tapering back down.  I’d get up to maybe 6.5 mph for a little bit but that was usually a max.  6.5 mph is not bad. That’s peaking at a 9:13 minute/mile pace.  I’ve been pretty content with that, having really just started running consistently in January.

On Friday, I must have been particularly distracted as I got started on the treadmill.  Perhaps it was because I hadn’t run in over a week and was feeling behind, maybe it was the fact that I was actually out in the middle of the day on school day due to our cancellation, maybe it was because I had just dropped my two kids off in the gym daycare and who knew how that would go.  Regardless, I fiddled w/ my iPhone, started my Nike+ app, fixed my headphones and started cranking up the treadmill.  I’d been going for quite a little bit when I looked down at the display and saw that I had started myself off at a 6.5 mph pace.  And was doing fine.  I reactively reached out to slow it down, but then realized that I was doing fine.  Intrigued, I left my setting as it was and proceeded with my normal routine of cranking up the challenge little by little over the course of my run, eventually peaking at 7.2 mph (a 8:20 min/mile pace), without much trouble at all. 

My mind raced far more than my legs that day.  How often do we operate in this manner in our classrooms?  We have what we think is our pace, our zone, where our kids perform best.  We have a bar of expectations for our kiddos. Our MO is to start right under that bar and work up to it and maybe little beyond it and then ease back down.  It makes me wonder, how accurate are we with our initial bar setting? Are we selling ourselves and our students short?  What if we started the day with the bar set a little higher and still worked to stretch students more, little by little, what would we achieve?   Incrementally increasing my speed felt just as challenging when I was running the slower pace as I did at the surprisingly faster start pace.  Would I have known the difference if I hadn’t looked down?  Would our students?

It doesn’t mean that there won’t be stumbling blocks.  I had to pause my run on the treadmill, to deal with a nagging sock that was bunching up between my toes.  But was able to resume the run feeling much better having straightened that out. Extend the metaphor in your mind.  What does the pause in the run look like in your classroom?  What is the cause? What’s your bunched up sock?  Stop and take the time to deal with it.  Then get going again, the rest will go smoother having done so. 

Now, I will tell you that it did cross my mind that this run was a fluke.  Maybe I had extra energy having taken week off.  Maybe it because I was on a treadmill and not outside.  Maybe it was because I was playing mindgames with myself over those 4 miles.  Interestingly enough, having had two opportunities to run since and test this hypothesis, it’s holding, once outdoors and then back on the treadmill (thanks Texas weather).  I’ve continued to outperform my typical self (not just for a moment but over the course of a whole 4 or 5 miles) when I’ve started at a more challenging pace. 

Where have you set your bar?  What surprising successes are you keeping yourself from?