Sunday, May 25, 2014

Re-discovering a Capital-P Passion

I've just started reading @burgessdave's book, Teach Like a PIRATE. I've only just finished the first section (who knew PIRATE was an acronym?!), but am really enjoying it. I find it to be an inspirational source of new ideas (how to ignite your students during the first few days of the semester) as well as a subtle reminder of what we know as teachers to be good teaching practices (immersing yourself in your class, being 100% in the moment with your students).

The P in PIRATE stands for passion, and Mr. Burgess makes an excellent case for bringing three kinds of passion into your everyday classroom. Subject passion (why we love our teachable subject so much we dedicated part of our lives to studying it), professional passion (why we love teaching), and personal passion (what gets us fired up outside of the classroom, during our personal time). By sharing and demonstrating our various passions for our students, we build rapport with them, and automatically demonstrate enthusiasm in what we're teaching. It makes sense that when we discuss something we love, we transfer a little of our passion as well.

Reading about this prompted me to ask myself, what are my passions? What do I really enjoy doing, and what do I push myself to learn more about? One of these passions is running.

Always a sprinter in my youth, the ability to run distances greater than 400m eluded me. I've tried taking up running several times throughout my life, but it wasn't until about 5 years ago that it suddenly seemed just a little bit easier. I don't know if it was just because I was older, or a better diet, or whether the cleaner air that comes with living in rural Ontario made a difference, but I found I was able to run a full kilometre without being totally winded at the end! I pushed myself over the next few months and found myself running middle distances (5-10km) regularly, and actually enjoying it.

For the past few years now, I've set resolutions of running in at least three races/organized events a year. I've been fortunate to race with 10,000 runners in the Ottawa Race Weekend 5km, along the beautiful St. Clair river in southwestern Ontario, and along the Trans-Canada highway and Spanish River as the sun rose in Massey, among other races. I run in the Terry Fox run most years, and have raised thousands of dollars over the last 3 years for the CIBC Run for the Cure in the fall. I have no interest in running larger distances on a regular basis, although I might challenge myself to a half-marathon in a couple of years.

Half-way through my first 10km race at Massey, Ontario.

Having said all this, I'm by no means fast. I work to beat my personal bests, but I never go into a race determined to come in top place. To be honest, I get a bigger kick out of the fact that roads get closed to traffic so that runners can pound the pavement. I don't run to be competitive, I run because I enjoy it.

My recent target was the 10km race at Sudbury Rocks - a fundraiser for diabetes research, but also a major race day in Sudbury. I was looking forward to a local race, and running along some of the major roads I often drive along - something I would never get the chance to do otherwise. I followed a training schedule and got my distance back up after a long winter of occasional treadmill use.

Three weeks before the race, though, I fell into a week of depression. My motivation (for many things, not just running) was gone. I started eating more, and doing less. When I came out of the depression, I found it hard to get back into running. My bad habits continued, I gained 10 pounds, I missed the Sudbury race, and it became even harder to motivate myself to get back into it.

Until today. With no excuses left (I have no time, it's too cold, I just ate, there's no point - there are always excuses if we look for them), I had my husband drop me 5km from home - no choice to run back. It was slow and painful. But it's a step in the right direction (well, more like 5000 steps in the right direction).

Now that I've started again, I can start goal-setting again, and pushing myself again. Sure it was hard, but it felt good to re-discover this passion. I feel like a slightly different person than when I was making those excuses. A little more well-rounded, and a little more focused.

We can't just be teachers. We have to push ourselves to do new things, try new things, and master new things outside of the classroom. This makes us better learners, better teachers, and better able to connect with our students.

What are your passions? Have you fallen out of them? Can you get back into them? What passion can you bring to your classroom?

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