Friday, July 3, 2015

Endurance, Teamwork, and Growth Mindset to Persevere Through Challenge

While running this morning after taking four days off to attend the 23rd annual ICLE Model School Conference in Atlanta, my legs felt fresh and ready to fly through multiple miles.  I felt like a gazelle!  Then it happened... After 2.5 miles, my legs got heavy, my mouth felt dry, and I wanted to break.  The music played on and the lyrics really impacted my mindset.  

You can throw your hands up
You can beat the clock
You can move a mountain
You can break rocks
You can be a master
Don't wait for luck
Dedicate yourself and you can find yourself

Determined to move forward, I pushed past feeling uncomfortable so that my body could be trained to not want to break at that point.  I'll admit I take breaks in life but I go until the break is necessary, and typically opt to refuel rather than stop.  As I continued listening to my music this morning, the similarities between running and education become increasingly evident.  Days of accumulated thoughts and ideas during the time spent with my team at the conference, flooded my head.

I believe many of you in education can empathize when I say that there are times in our profession when we feel like we're traveling up a mountain.  It's a journey with no real end point where obstacles and stamina ebb and flow.  I pondered, as we move forward in shifts in education what causes some individuals to turn around and go back?  What causes others to stop and stand still?  And, what motivates and inspires others who choose to continue the journey toward the top?  After all, I just returned from the Model Schools conference where numerous identified model schools presented, whose staff exuded positive energy and determination allowing no hurdles to slow them down. 

When I reflect back at my running experiences (whether it was a 5k or half marathon) it was the people who encouraged and pushed me to accelerate.  It was those who showed that they believed in me.  There were people all along the way who cheered and held up signs.  Most of them were strangers and not cheering particularly for me, but it was their contagious belief that we runners were all making progress.  In fact it was as simple as a stranger who handed me a cup of Gatorade when I felt my legs couldn't take another step.  I persisted and refused to give up.  

Along with believers who encourage, we also need strategies that we can rely on.  The day I ran the marathon (half), I repeated the same song for the last 4 miles.  Now I'm clearly admitting a little insanity here, but I took a tool that worked for me personally when I truly struggled to maintain my pace.  I had hundreds of songs on my playlist, but chose the one I needed at that particular time.  I had a strategy in place to support myself in success.  With each new challenge, a new strategy may be necessary to move forward.  We can't expect the same strategy to work repeatedly.  Keeping that in the forefront we know that as educators and athletes we need to have a wealth of strategies to choose from for any given situation.

Ironically the morning of the half I expressed to a training partner of mine that my goal was to run under an 8 minute pace for the half.  Her response was that there was no way I could based on our training experiences.  As the event unfolded I recall chewing on her words, and even questioning my own ability as we quietly sat together riding to the start.  One of the thoughts that went through my head was the time during training when my knee gave out during a 15 mile run.  In a sense I failed the day I ran 15 miles since I couldn't continue.  But in the end I was stronger because I learned from the experience and corrected my mistake.  The mistake was simply that I had over trained that week and I needed to reevaluate my program.

I considered how I became stronger after that day and thought through all that I had done to prepare for this race.   The comment continued to replay in my head, and somehow was flipped into a challenge.  In fact, it ended up fueling my desire to prove that I could do anything I put my mind to.  It was my mindset kicking in.  

When we arrived at the starting area just prior to the beginning of the race, I began to follow her to where the 8 minute pacer was, but then something deep down inside me made me stop in my tracks.  I quickly explained that I was heading to where I gauged the 7:45 minute pace would be based on where the other pacer's were situated and asked her to join me.  She declined.  Looking back I wish I'd arrived at that epiphany sooner in our travels so that I had more time before the official start to encourage and motivate her to also believe in her ability and join me as a team member.

Whose voice do you listen to? Do you listen to those who encourage or discourage you?  If someone does discourage you, how do you take that information and use it to reflect or strengthen your abilities?  What does your own voice say when you truly listen to it?  When you're faced with naysayers or those comfortable living in the status quo, do you feel uncomfortable taking risks or inspired by the challenge? Furthermore, how can you link arms with each other and move forward as a team?  A team yields the greatest results after all.    

My pace that day for the half ended up being a 7:42/minute for 13.1 miles.   As for my training partner, she continued training hard because she saw that if I could do it, she could too.  We continued to strengthen one another.  And as for this morning's run, I didn't stop when my body wanted to.  My mindset pushed me as the music played on. 

You could go the distance
You could run the mile
You could walk straight through hell with a smile
You could be the hero
You could get the gold
Breaking all the records that thought, never could be broke
Do it for your people
Do it for your pride
How you ever gonna know if you never even try?

Surround yourself with those who inspire you.  A team is only as strong as its weakest member.  Take the members who you're with, identify and celebrate their strengths and encourage them to continue to take steps forward.  Collaborate to grow and push one another to greater heights.  Keep in mind that your team isn't solely the people who teach in your grade level, wing, or district, but are also the people on the sidelines who are encouraging you.  In education we extend our team by engaging and empowering all stakeholders.  When these key players are embraced, they provide increased levels of support and become integral members in helping us climb to greater heights together.  And if you or your team members fail - reflect, debrief and reevaluate to improve.

The most inspirational coach I've had the honor to run for would give us slips of quotes prior to races.  One of my favorite quotes that sticks with me is, "pain is temporary, pride is forever."  What greater pride is there than being able to impact children in their current place and especially their future?  Each individual has a different threshold and pace, but the key is to continue moving forward, foster a growth mindset, encourage, and celebrate one another along the way. 

I dedicate this post to all of my #leadupchat tribe members who are my inspirational thought partners, and my extended team at Horseheads Central School District with whom I'm blessed to be on a journey toward excellence.  #OwnItHCSD #ModelHHDS

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Elisabeth. I really identify with that idea fbmpishjng last what's comfortable as both a runner and an educator. It's not a lot of fun in the moment, but the rewards are worth it!