Joy Kirr is a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. Her 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of their learning experiences... Want to have her speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is Joy's PORTFOLIO.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Chasing Hardware

I'm writing this post for ME.

Feel free to comment, but this reflection is one I need to write about and stick to - for my health and well-being.

Flash back to my previous life...

June of 1996. It started with a phone call. I was still living at my parents' house when I was 23, and when my future husband was getting off of our phone call to "go for a run," I decided to take my dog for a walk. I was not an athlete by any stretch of the imagination. That summer, however, I was able to manage my exercise-induced asthma and walking turned into running. I was able to run a mile a couple of weeks later. I wanted to do this so my boyfriend and I would have more in common. Plus, I wondered why I'd never exercised prior to this. I didn't have any weight to lose - I just did it for the challenge. His next gift to me was a watch (Timex - Ironman), and suddenly he was coaching me like he did his clients. Yes. Tom was (is?) a personal trainer.

June of 1998. We were to be married in August. I wanted to run my first 10k under my maiden name. Tom found me a small race in Woodstock, IL (where I worked at the time). My goal = to finish. I ran alongside a woman who had run in a marathon before, but she was not too sure she could run the 6.2 miles that day. I told her I'd stick with her, if she'd stick with me. I held to that, and we were the last two runners that came in. (That race was when I learned about the ambulance that comes as the "sweeper.") My time = 72 minutes, 12 seconds. (Slower than any "run," but I finished!) As I sat down to cool off with my post-race popsicle, my name was called. Huh? Wha...? I'd won third place in my age group!

This was the catalyst for my chase for hardware.

Tom taught me that "hardware" (plaques, trophies, etc. - of which I'd NEVER gotten) was easier gotten in small-town races. I started seeking them out.

August, 1998 - After the honeymoon. Momence IL was about a 2 hour drive for us in the morning, but it was a nice small 5k where I could collect more hardware. Bonus - it was an "out and back" course, so you could see the people who were ahead of you, and "pick them off" one by one on your way back to the finish. Tom usually ran his own races, but ran alongside me for this one, coaching me the entire way. "Look - she's in your age group. You can catch up to her." I won third place in my age group! This was the Momence Glad Run, where winners got beautiful gladiola flowers, as well as hardware.

For the next two years, I strived for more. For the next two years, we took the trek to Momence for this short run, and he ran alongside me, helping me pass by more and more women in my age group. "Just focus on that next runner. Get alongside her..." And I excelled in my quest for hardware, moving from third to first in my age group.
                                             Time: 26:56                                  Time: ??
                                                                     Time: 24:32

And the year I received 2nd place in this 5k was the same year I ran my marathon. In Alaska. For Team In Training. (Running 26 miles when I was 26 years old was very COOL. My time, however, was not - 5 hrs 58 minutes, when I'd been training for 4:30. Oh, what mountains will do to your time...) I was so new to running, that every race - every new challenge - became a personal record. How motivating!

These memories are strong. They came reeling back when I decided to clean out a bin that had been in the garage since I left my "old life" and came to this house in 2010. The bin was labeled "Things I don't know what to do with..."

Last week, I saw a tweet from Russ Anderson...

It was time, too, for me to purge. I obviously did not have all that Russ had - I only had a few from my twenties. I'll keep the medal from the Mayor's Midnight Sun Marathon in '99 - when I find it. I knew when I saw the plaques, that it was time to toss them - along with the years of running journals I'd pitched years ago - but the memories were so strong, I had to write about them first. What was the message I was going to get from this flood of memories? Where's my lesson that can apply to me now?

I need to stop chasing hardware.

My professional life is so much of my life. And, although I no longer run, I am still chasing "hardware." Notes from students, emails from parents, home-made gifts from students, being asked to present at conferences, accolades on Twitter for blog posts, the chapter in Best Lessons: Literature. I'm currently chasing after NBCT recertification, and I might ask a publisher or two to look at an outline I have for a book. 

With this chase comes disappointment. I am not new to the game of teaching. In my 21st year, it's impossible to get a PR with every action. When parents don't copy my principal on great emails that I hold dear to my heart, I feel a bit deflated. When someone posts something in their blog that I feel everyone already knows, and it's retweeted 20 times more than the post I wrote from my heart, my jealousy rises. This is WRONG. No. This is HUMAN. But I don't like the feeling. I feel like I should know better than that at this point in my life.

The lesson gets clearer to me with a message I received from a student yesterday. He "tagged" me on an Instagram picture of his shoes. (He has a thing for shoes.) 

"2015 wasn't the best year. The Broncos lost in the playoffs, the bulls lost in the playoffs, the packers lost in the playoffs, and the seahawks went to the super bowl. Isis is still here, so that sucks. Richard Sherman is still here, so that sucks too. But some things went alright. Gay marriage was legalized. The world showed that when one country is in need, they can count on another. It also showed that being different is not a wrong thing. I tagged people that made this year worth waiting 12 months."

The fact that he tagged me... that was a stellar moment for me. This young man is following 467 people. He is no longer in my class. Sometimes he pops in for a quick "hello," but I really haven't seen much of him this year. 

I got it.

And suddenly, it will be easy for me to toss out the plaques. 

I believe, as a result of interacting with educators on Twitter, I get too caught up in the "advertising" of our teaching. I get too caught up in "marketing" what we're doing online. I get too caught up in looking for the support, accolades, and recognition. I highlight what others say about the LiveBinder (or an actual quote!) in their books. I save what I produce or present on my online portfolio, the class website, and even a Google doc for my evaluation. I save uplifting parent emails in another Google doc. I save student notes in a scrapbook in my file cabinet. I put home-made gifts up in our classroom. Every school year, I sum up in a blog post what I've "done" that is valuable or precious during the year. Yes, these keepsakes are important to me. Yes, I should be proud and happy of what I've accomplished. BUT...

I need to focus even more on the people in room 239 and the hallways of my school. 

I need to focus on having even more one-on-one discussions with students. I need to focus what they say, not on what I want to say to them. During meetings, I need to listen with the intent to learn, and not as much with the intent to share or teach. I need to give my time, and not so much of my opinion. I need to lend an ear, and not so much advice.

My word for this next year is "gratitude," as it has been for the previous two years. I haven't gotten the most out of this feeling yet. I'm shifting the focus from grateful for all I have, to grateful for all the opportunities ahead of me. All the moments I can use to let others know they matter. I'm tired of chasing. I'll let moments come, and give them all I've got.

I love learning more about life as I get older. 
I now look forward to this new change in mindset.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! Educators tend to push forward to achieve the best for students sometimes forgetting to slow down to see results, hear others, and share in successes. Best wishes for your new mindset this year!