More jerk than clean | Days 3 & 4 #28daysofwriting

Confession: this is a shameless and desperate bid to catch up my #28daysofwriting posts with the days of month. Tidy posts, tidy mind:)

Conveniently, today and yesterday have been two days’ of stories that link neatly together, as all shall be revealed…

Day 3: More jerk than clean

weightsThe split jerk. The hang clean. The back squat. A litany of lifts that I’m trying to master – and failing. Each new class a fresh hell of sweat, flying chalkdust, muscled athletes – and me.I am technically classed as ‘mature’. I don’t have the right shoes. There are, good lordy, even some of my ex-students in the class (although I was very young when I taught them, ahem).

It can be a hard road to rock up three or four times a week to work on skills surrounded by people who are far ahead of me. Aching muscles don’t want to know, glutes quietly whine and my ‘core’ fails to commit.

Learning something – anything – new is hard. Learning something new as you get older, I think, can be even tougher. It’s a good reminder of how it feels to be that student in the class at the moment when an idea doesn’t stick, a concept is new, the context is unfamiliar. And of course, that student can be any given student if the learning experience isn’t designed around them.

Day 4: Last one on the mat

first day of schoolBags packed, lunches wrapped, new books, sharpened pencils, a shiny laptop or two for the lucky ones. First days back at school happened all over New Zealand over the last few days. First day back was today in our house – and we were late.

It was a flurry of hurried breakfasts, a few raised voices and then a rush to school. Not what I’d intended, not quite enough time to mark the moment, other than a quick photo at the door, to go with the others from last year and the year before.

New rooms, new teachers, different friends, one or two ‘sworn enemies’ (the result of too much Asterix, that one, I think). The bell rang too soon and they had to rush to sit on the mat, throw their bags into a locker and shout goodbye. Wrenched away in an abrupt end to the glorious summer.

And a final expression of uncertainty sat heavy in the pit of my stomach all day.

When it’s all worthwhile…

light another match

Is it trite to say that it’s the people who make the difference to how these two stories end? Perhaps. But it also captures the key to a great learning experience, to the way in which education can and should make a difference to people’s lives in ways that empower and open up doorways.

So, a thank you and a teacherly nod of acknowledgement must go to

… the principal who greeted us as we flew past the gate and said, “No scooters today? And how’s CORE, Karen”, remembering us from the other 700+ who also streamed past him that morning.

…the teacher who asked the children to say where and who and what they preferred and spent plenty of time making sure that relationships kicked off the year.

… the coach who spent time encouraging me, reminded me that everyone is in competition only with themselves, gave me pointers on technique with good humour and a “see you tomorrow, k?”.

…the other folk pushing through their own goals in the gym who train with me, support each other, clear up the space together and urge each other on.

We spent a (precious) hour in a meeting at work the other day, sharing waiata and karakia, just taking time for us to get to know each other, when a few years ago we might have rushed straight to the first item on the agenda. These things matter, all the time, throughout the year. It’s at the heart of being culturally intelligence, at the heart of inclusive practice. Let’s keep our eyes on it this year.


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  1. I love how your mind works Karen and how the word flow, your posts are always so easy to read and make sense. I too have that struggle of the ‘new’ learner at a not so young age and it certainly makes me reflect, like you, on how our learners in classrooms feel. One brilliant teacher I work with @simone015 set herself a challenge to build a chicken coop (if my memory serves me correctly), role modeling to her learners the importance of stepping outside your comfort zone to learn something new. So KEEP going, you will soon be that person who looks like they know what they are doing and will be a role model for other ‘newbies’!

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