I don't know how many of you are familiar with Kylene Beers and her work with reading strategies and reading comprehension research, but I think she's amazing. I had the opportunity to hear her speak at the National Council of Teachers of English conference in Pittsburgh in 2005 and was NOT disappointed. She was an amazing presenter and a wealth of information. I've read many of her books and have been inspired by her passion for teaching and her clear writing style.
One of the things that Kylene talks about the most is how to help struggling readers. During her NCTE presentation, she asked us all to demonstrate what a struggling student looks like and, immediately, 150 English teachers slumped over in our seats, stuck our feet out in the aisle, yawned, closed our eyes, etc. She then asked us to think of something we are not good at and then imagine doing that 180 days a year for 45-90 minutes a day. THAT'S how our struggling students feel and yet they come to school almost every single day. The fact that they even show up is a testament to their resiliency.
So, why am I talking about this in my blog? Well, if you're a personal friend of mine, you know that I tend to be less than confident when it comes to any kind of physical activity. I was never a big fan of gym class because I was not very coordinated. I wasn't too bad at running or aerobics when we did those things, but I was terrible at softball, football, basketball, etc.
I am also not someone who enjoys struggling with anything. If I am learning something new, I want to pick up on it quickly and master it with little effort. Want proof? Ask my husband about the one and only time I played a round of golf. When I still didn't have the hang of it by the 5th hole, I was leaking angry tears as I chased the ball to the other side of the green after missing a putt once again. I wore sunglasses for the remaining holes because I was livid.
So....what I've been challenging myself to do lately is definitely moving me out of my comfort zone. I started a "Couch to 5K" program last week. Basically, I spend 30 minutes 3 days a week walking and running. Each week, I will increase the amount of time that I run until I'm running the equivalent to a 5K by the end of week 9. Normally, I do my workouts while my daughter is at soccer or softball practice. If she's at soccer, I do my laps around the high school stadium. Her soccer team pretty much ignores me because they're focused on their own workouts. If she's at softball practice, I do my running/walking on a bike trail connected to the park. it's mostly in the woods and when I run, I don't worry about anyone seeing me do it.
Again....what does this have to with doing what you dread? Well, I'm typing this blog tonight from a hotel near the state capital. I've been asked to come here to work on our modified state reading test. I came out the night before so that I would be able to get here in time for an 8:00 am start. I looked online before I left home and saw that my hotel had a fitness room so I packed my workout gear. Not long after getting here, though, I checked out the fitness room and saw that several members of the Navy were here for a conference, too.....and there were 4 very fit, very trim members of the Navy in the fitness room. I was intimidated to say the least. I came back to my room and seriously debated skipping out....just for tonight. But, with some encouragement from my Facebook friends, I suited up and headed down to the fitness room to do what I knew I needed to do.
I poked my head around the corner and saw that the only two occupants of the fitness room were two older gentlemen: one on a treadmill and one on an elliptical. Now, THIS I could handle!! No Navy men or women in sight!! I turned on my iPod, stepped onto a treadmill, and started my workout. 10 minutes in, I was sweating profusely and getting cramps in my calves. And, lo and behold, who should step on the treadmill next to me? A Navy man. I wanted to die. Instead, I kept right on with my workout and, as I did, I noticed that he was doing a very similar workout to mine. Even more than THAT....I was actually keeping pace with HIM!!
As I continue to challenge myself with this new venture in life, it reminds me that I am asking my students to do something similar every single day....I am asking them to do what they feel the least confident doing. It's not fair, then, for me to chicken out and make excuses instead of doing what I dread the most. This is a valuable lesson and one which THIS teacher really needed to learn.