Some ten years ago I started running as a hobby. I started slowly. I ran for a while then I would walk, then run again after a little recovery. After a month or so I could do quite a bit more running than I did walking. I found that I would really look forward to my run everyday as a way to relieve stress and to feel better about myself. Running also allowed me some indulgences like a bowl of ice cream or an extra helping of something I really like because I could “run” off the extra calories. After running for about six months my brother-in-law challenged me to run in the local Honeybee 5k. It was 3.1 miles, a distance I was able to run without stopping at this point so I decided I would do it. I trained by running a little harder than usual and trying to run every day. On race day I felt invigorated by the adrenaline, a rush I had not felt since competing in high school athletics as a student. I tried to mimic all of the things the other racers were doing to make sure I was really getting ready to race. When the race started, being all caught up in what everyone else was doing, I went out too hard for a beginner. The first mile flew by. I was really running hard and I felt good. My brother-in-law was running right with me and the thought of beating him in this race began to permeate every breath. Unfortunately, I had ran too hard too soon and ran out of gas about midway through the second mile. My opponent did not tire like I did and soon left me in the dust. I finished that race very slowly and a little disappointed in my performance. But after a few moments, even though I am very competitive, I found that I felt a great sense of accomplishment, not for having run a great race, but for simply being involved in the whole process, from training through finishing the race. I realized that I did not have to win. I did not even have to run very well. I simply enjoyed running. I have since run many races and have won very few.(I have beat my brother-in-law in a race or two though) The races have varied in length from a 5k to a half marathon and I have found the reason that I run and race is that I enjoy the process from warming up to cooling down. I like the middle of the run where I have to sometimes really focus in order to keep a predetermined pace. I am very uncomfortable when I do not get to run because of the day’s schedule or an injury.
If you are still reading this post you are probably wondering where I am going with this line of thought. I am not sure I will really connect all these ideas together coherently but….here we go! I am convinced that our society has become so fixated on the final product, the end of a procedure, getting a grade, finishing a project that we forget the richness of the journey. Do we read a book to find out what happens at the end? If so, why do we not just read the end! Have we lost the wonderful sensation of being totally engrossed in a project and losing the concept of time, sleep and even hunger? (my daughter did this building what she called a doll house out of card board for four hours over Thanksgiving break…when she was done she never went back to it but really was involved while she was working on it!) I can remember teaching about a very interesting part of history or having a great discussion about Psychology and a student would ask me is this going to be on the test?…. and thinking to myself…is that all you really care about? I always hated reducing what we had done for two weeks in class to one page of terms and concepts that were going to be on the assessment for the unit. It seemed cheap. That the final part of the journey was simply a dry run through the information without looking at what had really been explored. Like running, learning is more than just the end product. If you look at the grade card, do you really know what has been learned? If you look at my running times (please don’t) will you really see how running affects me and what the journey of running does for me both physically and mentally? Learning is about trying and failing, regrouping and succeeding. It is collaborating, making relationships and networking. When I run, my practice looks a lot like a race…..or parts of one. Is our learning environment in school anything like what will be experienced outside of the schoolhouse walls? Will there be a study guide to help us prepare when the assessment is about getting the job done in our chosen profession. We spend a lot of our time teaching our students how to do high school and not enough time engaging them and preparing them to harness their passions to do something they enjoy while being productive. WE NEED TO EMPHASIZE THE JOURNEY AND ITS RICHNESS AS MUCH AS, IF NOT MORE THAN, THE FINAL DESTINATION OR PRODUCT!