As I crossed the finished line, I could feel the tears welling up.
“Don’t do it," I thought. "Athletes don’t cry."
Somehow, I managed to pull myself together, but instead of my usual post-race celebration of high fives and cheering on other runners, I walked to the race result board without eye contact with anyone. My instinct was confirmed--my worst time ever.
I wanted to be proud that I at least finished the race after significant time away from running, but I wasn’t. I had not met my goal. And then I began to rationalize--everything. Let's see. I had not been running in months. With a new job, busy children, and everyday chores, there was no time to train. I am rapidly approaching forty, have put on some weight and often skip breakfast. All right, I admit it; the old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be! Well, no wonder I had a less than desirable time. I should be glad that I tried at all.... Wait!
Suddenly, I realized I was doing the unthinkable--justifying mediocrity with excuses. Rather than owning up to reality, I was willing to accept my unacceptable time and chalk it up to a plethora of unreasonable reasons. At that moment I made a choice. I wrote my time down in my journal with a note that read, “This was your time today. Now what?” I set a new goal.
In the past, I knew that I achieved success by asking questions, researching training plans that worked for me, and being reflective. I started doing all of those things again, but still, results were elusive. It was so much more difficult to stick with the plan because of all the changes I have experienced both personally and professionally over the past couple of years. I had to find a way, so I did something completely out of my comfort zone. I sought help and asked to start running with a group.
Mind you, I am a people person to the core, except in running. Running is my time, and group running puts every insecurity I have out there for other more skilled runners to see. But, working alone, I was not seeing success in my training plan during this time of transition, so, reluctantly at first, I ran with runners. Some were faster. Some were more competitive. From each, I learned something new and important about recovery and re-commitment to the sport. I found comfort and confidence in knowing that others struggled as I did. Most importantly, I found myself being reflective, learning from others, and appreciating help that I needed. I found accountability. I found support. I found the runner I had buried beneath a pile of excuses.
As I sat down last evening to catch up on my educational research and readings for the week, I started thinking about how many changes to curriculum, pedagogy, and evaluation are occurring for educators. Just then, one of those “light bulb” moments we talk about as teachers happened. Just as I had experienced great transition over the past couple of years, so has the teaching profession I love. The transition into Common Core, new assessments, and more accountable evaluations has taken center stage. Through blogs, media, conferences and conversations, teachers are working diligently to develop new training plans for teaching to the Common Core State Standards.
As teacher evaluations are increasing teacher accountability, educators are feeling that same fight back the tears feeling I experienced at the race finish line. Amazing teachers who have always been effective are struggling in ways they may never have known. I thought about the lessons learned from my recent running breakdown. Things change. Transition is difficult. Finding your groove through all of this is challenging, exhausting, and at times, heartbreaking. It becomes too easy to make excuses and avoid accountability that may never again be what it once was.
We fear that we are ill-equipped to run the race of new standards and new measures of teacher effectiveness. We do what comes naturally to us; we begin to rationalize and justify. We may feel we are running in the wrong direction. We may feel that we taught the best possible lesson, only to find that assessment results prove otherwise. We may doubt our effectiveness. We may curse the new assessments, and tears well up. Instead of thinking about all the reasons why we can’t, shouldn’t we accept the reality that change is here and resolve to do something positive?
Perhaps we should think about how to be more reflective and learn from the struggles we may face through the first year of implementation. Perhaps we need to come out of our comfort zone, seek help, and work with colleagues and instructional coaches to build a better training plan. Looking at real data, whether we like it or not, helps us to know where to start to rebuild and grow.
The race is on. After all, isn’t learning, reflecting and growing what we expect most from our students?