Shifting my Perspective

Posted by admin on

I started writing this as a blog post about how I've been working on cultivating healthy and productive habits in my life since school shut down in March. It turned into a rambling reflection on my morning walk and what I can take away from it and apply to the upcoming school year. While it's not exactly what I was going for, I guess it still means I have a blog post idea for tomorrow which will be Day 4 of the MTBoS Blaugust Blogging Challenge.

This morning I did NOT want to go for a walk. I wasn't feeling the greatest, but I'll spare you the details. Shaun even suggested at one point amidst my complaints about not feeling the best that I could go back to bed. My response? "But I already have my shoes on." Yes, I can be stubborn like that.

I convinced myself that I would just walk around the block a single time instead of my normal 1 mile loop of late. The weather was gorgeous, and our kiddo is always super calm (a stark difference from his constant energy the rest of the day) in the stroller. By the time I had made it to the stop sign at the end of our street, I decided that I might as well do my usual walking route. I was slow. Very slow. But, I did it. And at the end of the route, I decided to push myself a bit by tacking on that extra loop around the block that I'd originally set out to complete when I left the house.

Now, I am most definitely not an athlete. My crowning athletic achievement in life is running for twenty minutes without stopping once in the fifth grade. I wasn't athletic back then, either; I just wanted to impress my PE teacher. Yes, I was a teacher's pet, even in PE class. My gym teacher must not have acknowledged my efforts as much as I had hoped for back then. We did the twenty minute run once per quarter, and I ran less and less each time before giving up. If we were caught (gasp) walking during those twenty minutes, we had to sit in the middle of the gymnasium and watch all of the remaining runners finish.

Okay. Enough middle school memory sharing. As I finished my walk, Runkeeper proudly told me that this was my 15th fastest time. Super impressive, right? Maybe it would be if I'd used Runkeeper 50, 100, or 1000 times. Nope. I just checked. I've logged 19 activities. So, 15th fastest is really the same as saying "Almost your slowest time ever, Sarah!"

After I was back in the house and cleaned up, I went to check my email. Runkeeper was congratulating me on setting a new personal record. Wait...that doesn't make sense. I opened the email to see that I had set a record for farthest distance and longest duration. Why hadn't the app congratulated me about these accomplishments earlier when I had finished instead of applauding my "15th fastest time?"

So, why am I rambling on and on about my morning walk? And, what does this have to do with teaching math? I think there are definitely applications.

The app is built for runners. Athletes. Competitive people who are constantly pushing themselves to be better and faster.

I'm not a runner. I'm not an athlete. I'm just a mom of a toddler who is trying to get healthier. If you look at my speed today, I was a failure. I'm choosing to see myself as a winner instead. I won today when I got out of the house and told myself I was going to walk even if I stopped after a loop around the block. I won today when I got out of bed and put my running shoes on. I won today when I took literal steps toward building this habit of a healthy lifestyle.

I can't fault the app too much. In fact, I'm guilty of being stuck in a single mindset when it comes to thinking about back to school. I don't think it's fully set in that I go back to work this week. I don't think it's set in that I will have students in my classroom next week.

That amount of actual planning I have done is abysmal because I keep getting hung up on the fact that school will look so different. I'll be teaching face to face, but that will only last until students and staff start testing positive for COVID-19.

For the past two years, I've made it a goal of mine each year to increase the number of hands-on/interactive activities that I do with my students. I highlight them in my lesson plan book in a certain color so at a glance I can see how well of a job I am doing engaging my students.

This has been my focus. It's how I grade myself when I think about whether I'm doing a good job in the classroom or not. For me, I'm an effective math teacher when my students are engaged with hands-on, minds-on activities. And while that phrase could describe a wide range of tasks, I have a very specific style of tasks that I have specialized in, My filing cabinets are full of laminated activities, dry erase activities, craft supplies, and manipulatives.

This year, those are a no go. Kids sitting in groups. Kids leaning in to look at the same set of laminated cards. Kids touching and manipulating the cards together to complete a matching task. Kids sharing a large dry erase board and a handful of markers. Kids coming up to my desk to get their group's work checked. Kids high fiving with excitement when they finally solve a tough problem. What I would have once described as an ideal day in my classroom now describes an ideal setting to spread COVID-19.

Just as I redefined my morning walk as a "win," I need to redefine what counts as a win in my classroom. This year, I won't be highlighting hands-on activities in my lesson plan book. To be honest, I'm not sure what I'll be highlighting. I think the best back to school prep I can do over the course of this new week is to shift my thinking and redefine what a winning day in my face-to-face classroom (or virtual classroom) will look like.

If you've put up with my rambling this for this long, I'm impressed. I present to you one imaginary gold star. I'll be back again tomorrow (with hopefully less rambling) to continue the Blaugust Challenge.