Friday, March 7, 2014

It’s Not About the Hill/Tech

Each October roughly 5000 riders converge upon south central Indiana to participate in a ride called the Hilly Hundred for two days of breathtaking cycling. Literally. The fall foliage is exquisite and the hills, epic. The climb that is most discussed among riders is Mt. Tabor. At a steady 24% grade for a third of a mile, it is formidable. In the six times I’ve participated in this ride, I’ve only walked Mt. Tabor once. At the time, I attributed my inability to conquer this hill to recovery from several broken ribs. Upon further reflection, I admitted to myself it was more likely due to a lack of determination and confidence, and fear that I wasn’t in good enough shape.

When I think about times in the classroom that my students did not learn what I’d thought they should have, I sometimes felt like a total failure. This frightened me. Did I have what it took to be a good teacher? Upon honest reflection, I sometimes was ill-prepared. In other instances, I was out of tune with student needs. Too often, my focus was on my teaching, rather than on their learning. When the digital device initiative began, I was challenged - it required a major shift in my thinking about student learning. Fortunately, I chose to embrace a new mindset, with a new skill set developing as a result. 

When one is afraid or intimidated, they’ll never be able to fully succeed. Whether this refers to conquering the colossal Mt. Tabor, or integrating technology into your teaching, it doesn’t matter. The point is, your attitude can make a huge difference in your willingness to attempt great things. One key to accomplishing this is the use of reflections. Ask yourself, “What really matters? What will it look like when I succeed? Am I prepared? How can I improve?” Then, shift your energy to accomplish those things. 

It’s OK to be concerned about those hills we face. I believe a bit of healthy respect for the task in front of us helps to prevent complacency.  A tinge of cognitive dissonance
can motivate us to try to reduce our fear by taking action. If I have to walk my bike up a hill, I’ll get back on at the top and keep riding. If the awesome lesson I’ve planned flops, I’ll try again tomorrow. The point is to choose your attitude so you can keep moving forward! 

“In times of change learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” 
~Eric Hoffer