Over the past couple of years, I have turned into somewhat of an avid runner. I have completed four half marathons and a full marathon in the last 16 months alone. Currently, I am signed up to run another couple half marathons over the course of the next few months. Since my marathon, I have been working hard to get my mile pace times down from the slower, more methodical, marathon pace that I trained and ran. Through the summer, my times have been slowing coming back down to mile averages where I would like to pace myself to run my upcoming halfs. Here are my pacings from a couple of my morning runs last weeks:
Things have been going well, times have been coming down and I have felt great about the progress I have been making… until this past weekend. Saturday morning, I went out for a six mile run and I could tell from the start that it was not going to be a good one. My legs were tight and my feet felt like they had weights attached. My mile times were over a minute slower than they have been for weeks. Here are the splits from that run:
I was very disappointed at the end of this run. I felt like I had been making great progress- and then this? What was going on? As silly as it sounds, I was frustrated and a little disheartened throughout the rest of the day. As usual, time provided perspective. Even though I was disappointed in my run, I intentionally reminded myself that the process of training is what is valuable and important- not the outcomes. The habits that I am forming during my training are what will lead to my success in running regardless of my times. Some days are great running days, and other days, like last Saturday, are tough. But, good times or bad ones, the daily grind is what helps me improve. Focusing on habits that will help me get better is always more beneficial than focusing on pace times that I want to reach. Struggling through the tough runs is just as good for me as coasting through the easy ones, regardless of how fast my mile times come out.
Our habits, not outcomes, define our success. This is not only an important lesson in my training, it is also a very important lesson in our schools. As educators, do we put our self worth in school grades or standardized test scores? Or, do we let our daily work define us? Which is going to be more beneficial, focusing on providing great classroom environments and learning opportunities or chasing a pass rate on a standardized test? You may be thinking, doesn’t one lead to the other? Sure, great teaching will result in better outcomes, but the difference is where you place the importance. Much like my Saturday run, we cannot always control the outcomes, but we can control the effort we put in on a daily basis. We can form great habits which lead to success in our classrooms.
If you are still not sold on this idea in your classroom, think about what each idea teaches our students. If the test is what you see as most important, we are teaching our students results are the only thing that matter. We are teaching them that unless they measure up, they are not successful. On the other hand, if we teach our students that our daily work is what matters most, regardless of the outcome, we are teaching them some very important character traits. Effort matters; hard work matters; giving your best everyday matters. In Angela Duckworth’s book Grit chapter two is titled: “Effort Counts Twice.” In this chapter, Duckworth writes: “Without effort, your talent is nothing more than your unmet potential. Without effort, your skill is nothing more than what you could have done but didn’t. With effort, talent becomes skill, and, at the very same time, effort makes skill productive.”
I challenge you to evaluate where you place your focus in this upcoming week. Is your focus on outcomes and performance or is your focus on forming habits that will help you and your students become great? Look at your work and the work you value from your students – what are your habits of success?
Keep learning; keep growing; keep sharing.