The parallels of long distance running and public education

I’m writing this from the comfort of my recliner. My sore and blistered feet are propped up and I’m eating all the carbs in sight. Why? I ran a 1/2 marathon yesterday, so today I feel entitled to calories and rest.

I’m not a new runner and the 1/2 marathon (13.1 miles) distance is one that I typically enjoy and am trained to complete. Yesterday’s race I made “rookie” type mistake and wore shoes that I knew going in I shouldn’t wear, but I did anyway. I paid for it.

By mile 3 my feet hurt. By mile 6 every left step was uncomfortable. By mile 11 the hot spots on the side of my right foot were killing me. But I kept going. I considered stopping and checking on my left foot, but I didn’t want to see the wound that I knew was there. So I just endured it and finished the race.

And while contemplating my stupid shoe issue, I came to realization that much like the problems with my shoes, so are the problems in education.

How? Well here are my parallels.

  1. These shoes are not a new shoe for me. I’ve worn this brand for years. But this pair is newer and they have never felt right. While the brand and the style didn’t change, something about the way they were made was changed.

    Isn’t this the way of high stakes testing? We have been testing in public education for years and years. I’m not even saying that testing is bad. We need markers so that we know what learning is taking place. But the way the tests are made has changed. The purpose and the mindset has changed even though the official reasons for testing are still said to be to measure student success.

    And because the shoe still looks like the shoe we know, we expect to be able to wear it the same with the same result.. and we end up with a bloody toe. And the test while it has changed its name over the years, still is supposed to measure student success, so we and teach the students the way we know how, expecting the same results… and we end up with disenfranchised and unsuccessful students. 

  2.  The shoes never fit right, but I wore them anyway.

    From the first time I wore the shoes, the tops of my toes rubbed in them. For short runs, my toes would be a little pink when I finished running, but it wasn’t too bad. For longer runs, I’d make sure that I wore thin socks.  I knew there were issues. But I continued to wear them. My older, comfortable shoes were past their mile markers and not suited to long runs anymore. And of course, I had just gotten these shoes. They were clean and pretty! They just had to get better!

    And so goes education. After almost 20 years in public education, I can say honestly that some of the things that we do are just plain stupid. The newest and best things for engagement, to boost test scores, to prevent drop out.. and on and on.. some of these things do work. (This post isn’t about those things…. ) And some of them never fit right, they rub students and teachers the wrong way, have continued issues and are just bad. But we do them anyway, because it is the new thing..it’s shiny and clean and pretty.. and surely, once we get used to it, it will get better! 

  3. I knew that the problem existed, but I ignored it.

    For months I wore my “pink ghosts” knowing that they didn’t fit right. But I ignored the problem hoping that eventually the issues would work themselves out. Every time I put them on, I knew the possible blisters. I would rationalize the issues and go on with my run.  My toes would hurt after a few miles, but oh well. I’d tell myself to get out that other pair of shoes from my closet and try a different pair. Good intentions and really pretty easy to take care of. But after my workout, I’d be in a hurry and quickly be off to work and not think about the shoe issue until I was about mile 3 into a run. I know, it doesn’t make sense.. but not much makes sense a 4:30am! 🙂

    And the same goes for education! Oh my does it! We know that problems exist and we even know how to fix many of them. But we act as if we ignore the problems that they will eventually either get fixed, graduate or go work someplace else! This mindset helps no one, nor does it make sense.

Running and public education are my passions.

As I strive to be a better runner, I have to be willing to stop and make necessary changes… often ones that only can be seen after the first 6 miles… including trying a new brand or style of shoes.

As I strive to be a better advocate for public education, I have to be willing to stop and make necessary changes.. often ones that can only be seen from inside the school building. For now, I focus on my classroom… but one day in the not so distant future a campus? I can hope. Until then, I will remember that this is a marathon.

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