Saturday, May 17, 2014
Woke up this morning to yet another rainy day. Sigh. This got me to thinking of similar days when I’m on the road. To me there is nothing as soothing as falling to sleep in a tent as the sound of falling rain. Waking up to the same sound is another story, especially when I know that I must ride 50-80 miles in it to get from point A to point B. I remember the first time I encountered this situation when on a cross-state ride. I knew that there was no other option than to get on the bike and head out: my gear (luggage, tent, etc.) was being transported by truck to a town 63 miles away. Several people stood around just looking at the rain, while others hopped on their bikes and headed out. I remember thinking, “I am going to get wet. Might as well just get going." When riding on rainy days, there’s really no point in trying to stay dry: all the rain gear in the world is useless after the first couple of miles. The main thing is to focus on the destination and be safe along the way.
In education, there will be “rainy days”. Sometimes for weeks at a time. As much as we might want to stay snuggled in our comfort zones, our students need us to keep moving forward. Changes in teaching facilitated by the advent of Common Core and growth in technology call for continuous learning on our part. In the words of +LeahO’Donnell, “There is always something new to learn, and that can make us great.” Our students deserve our very best effort. Looking out the window and commiserating about the “forecast” does a disservice to them. We cannot afford to waste a single day. When clouds loom large and winds of change blow, carry on: the sun will shine again.
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
As the school year continues to wane and summer looms large, I find myself dreaming more and more of pedaling through the countryside and sleeping under the stars, day after day, for weeks at a time. It is when I’m doing these rides, many of them across states I’ve never traveled, that all the training I’ve done and coaching I’ve received allows me to escape into hours of serenity. I seriously lose time on these rides, and have gone for hours in that sweet spot. I have a zeal to be in “the zone” - that place where one doesn’t notice the effort being expended, the pain, the aching muscles or saddle-sore butt. It’s a place of untroubled delight, of being in harmony with my bike, fully immersed in the moment, and loving every second of it.
Another name for this is Flow. The psychologist who developed this concept, Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, refers to Flow as “a mental state of operation that one enters when engaging in an activity – becoming fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, involvement and success.” He goes on to say, “The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” So being stretched to the max can give us energy and allow us to embrace success? Yes.
I strive to experience Flow in my job as well as on my bike. Some might wonder why I’d want to stretch myself, voluntarily, to work harder. In a word: joy. Seriously. By pushing myself beyond my comfort zone and having a resolve to master some new thing, I’m able to develop a sense of control, which in turn leads to feelings of peace. This is not easy, and I don’t always succeed, but as my skill-sets improve, I am more productive and my stress decreases. Once one goal is accomplished, I’m eager to set the next one. I’m actively seeking new approaches and tools as I coach my peers to better leverage tech to facilitate increased engagement and student learning. And loving it.
If this concept intrigues you, give yourself permission to shift to this mindset. Begin by identifying a challenge, set your goal, and then go for it. Here’s an article that sums up the process. As with many new endeavors, this will require focus and resolve (and time). Practicing positive self-talk is necessary - be intentional about nurturing your inner coach and squelching your inner critic. Flow cannot happen by being passive. In the complex worlds of education, technology and assessment, this is a difficult task. But by choosing to embrace the challenge and stretching ourselves to succeed, we can find ourselves getting energized.