I grew up on a farm. We didn’t have a cabin or a lake to travel to, so May long weekend plans always involved putting in the huge garden that fed our family of six. And even though the years of hilling potatoes, shelling peas, and weeding out the carrots gave me plenty of practice at it, it did not give me a passion for it.
I’ll do it, but I don’t really like it.
The same is true for the rest of the yard too. I mainly grow perennials, as they are pretty low maintenance and they just magically pop out of the ground every year! Voila! Hello, lilies! I buy a couple of flower planters to put in some pots out front, and that’s about it. Low maintenance.
Except if you garden at all, you know that low-maintenance doesn’t mean no-maintenance.
So here are a couple of gardening tasks I did today and what it made me think about…because there’s nothing to do but think when you start pulling quack grass out of EVERYWHERE!!!
1. Let’s start with that. Quack grass. I don’t think there is a more invasive weed in our yard. You can pull out one clump and the root system that comes with it can be a foot long. No exaggeration. And if any roots are left, more of it will grow. It is sooooo hard to get rid of. (What are some things or ideas that I am continually trying to purge? What are the root causes?)
2. I had to cut back raspberry branches. I’m not sure if there was winter-kill or if that just happens after awhile to raspberries, but there were obviously dead branches with a ton of fresh growth at the base. (What are some things I need to prune away to give new ideas a chance? Ineffective practices? Outdated classics?)
3. Vines go where they want to go! They’ll also climb up almost anything, especially the dried vines from the year before. I transplanted and redirected some vines that were going wonky. (What are some things that have been successful that we can build on? What foundations have been set, that we just need to redirect and refocus?)
4. I got an apple tree from my son for Mother’s Day and since there is no frost in the forecast anymore, I planted it. (Apparently the tree did not come with the manual labor to get it in the ground!) The hole had to be 2x the width of the pot and 1.5x the depth, and the instructions literally told me to massage the roots before planting. (What am I doing to prepare students for new skills or content? Am I boxing students in, or am I creating flexible enough conditions for growth to happen?)
5. I admit it - I buy seed tape when I can! If you’re not familiar with it, instead of buying seeds in a packet, you can get some “tape” where seeds are stuck to it and evenly spaced out. It makes it much easier to plant and lessens the amount of thinning you have to do later. (Am I providing adaptations and supports so that all students find success? Am I willing to accept feedback and support myself?)
6. And I did a lot of raking. Of cat poop. Because even if you have 40 acres of land for your cats to do their business in, they will do it right behind the house, in the small raised bed area for gardening. (Not sure this one needs any analogy…)
As much as none of these things brought me joy today, I know that the results will bear fruit (literally and figuratively) later this summer. And so it is with learning and education as well. It’s why we do the hard work day after day, year after year.
If you were at a lake this weekend, I hope that you enjoyed the chance to have a few beverages and relax. If you were planting your own garden, or building that deck, or catching up on that book you’ve been wanting to read, I hope that the fresh air and sunshine did you some good too! Last week of May ahead…next up…June.
p.s. It just started raining for the first time this spring. Now I’m smiling. Let it all grow!!
A marathon gets used in analogies a lot, and for good reason. A marathon is 42kms, not a short distance for a drive, let alone to complete on your own two feet.
I have no idea what percentage of people will finish a marathon in their life, but it won’t be many. That’s also when I frequently take stock of how amazing it was that Terry Fox ran a MARATHON EVERY DAY THAT HE WAS RUNNING ACROSS CANADA.
When the marathon analogy plays out, whether we are talking about making it to the end of this COVID time, or getting through to the end of a school year with +32 weather in the forecast, or trying to do both of those things simultaneously (hello Monday, here’s looking at you!) the basic understanding is that it’s friggen hard.
Often we think of the middle as the most difficult part of the run. In the beginning, you have lots of energy and are feeling good. By the end, you can see the finish line. You can power through because you the end is in sight. The middle is usually the tough part: muscles cramping, breath hitching, pace slowing.
The middle is hard, no doubt. But there is a rhythm in the middle too. It’s a one-foot-after-the-other mentality that can take the focus off of the other pains…you just settle in and do it. You get slower and everything feels harder, but you’re still moving forward.
The end might be easier in terms of seeing the goal, but the problem is that you’ve got nothing left to give. Nothing physically. Nothing mentally. Hopefully you’re still moving, but at this point, sometimes it’s just too much and you feel like you might quit.
Last week, I had a terrible run.
I stopped with a kilometer to go to make some adjustments to my shoes. Started up. I stopped again. Adjusted some more. Started up.
Nothing that I did worked, and so the last 300 meters were walking.
With my shoes off.
In my sock feet.
On a gravel road.
It was deflating and frustrating, for sure. It was not the ending to the run that I wanted. But I made it home, and it was the farthest that I have ever gone. Ever!
I’ve problem solved my running issues for the last month. Talking to people, tying the laces differently, getting metatarsal arches, new shoes, annnnnnnd although each gives a slight reprieve, I finally needed to admit that I needed help and made an appointment with a podiatrist.
As I was walking in my socks, I thought about how it was a perfect metaphor for our first full-time COVID school year. We are all in our sock feet by now. We’ve stopped a few times and now we’re walking. We can see the end, and we are still moving forward. But it’s taken a toll and we are definitely going to feel this later when we have a chance to ice that foot and roll out the sore muscles.
Everyone I know has worked so hard problem-solving all the issues this year presented: heavy decisions that had to be made for safety, learning new ways of connecting with our students both online and in the room together, and so much, much, much more.
The May long weekend is often the last signpost of a school year, interspersed with track meets and year end activities, that show we are almost there. Although we don’t have those events, the muscle memory in our bodies knows that is where we are. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m tired.
So if you’re down to your sock feet like me, make sure to connect with your colleagues and others around you for support over these next few weeks. Ask for help if you need it. Most importantly, take time to take care of yourself…and we’ll see this through to the end together!
Have a great week everyone! Stay cool!!
Patrik Laine is in a slump.
If you follow hockey, you will know who Patrik Laine is. He was drafted 2nd overall in 2016, with Auston Matthews going number one. He helped Finland win gold in the World Juniors and then played with the men’s team that same year, winning tournament MVP. He was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets and played there until he was traded to the Blue Jackets in January.
He is a very good player. A great player.
But he is in a scoring drought.
“I try to hide it as much as I can, but sometimes you just absolutely can’t. When you’re a player who’s used to scoring goals, getting points, expecting a lot from yourself, it’s the worst situation you can have when you’re not producing. So, it’s tough, but at the same time, you know, you’ve just got to work the same way (and) even harder to get out of it.”
Yesterday I posted on facebook that I had gone for a run.
The run wasn’t unusual in and of itself, except it was the first one in two weeks where I didn’t have to stop and walk a bit.
Where I didn’t stress about the slow pace.
The crappy distance.
Where I didn’t fixate on what the slow pace and crappy distance were doing to my running averages on my app.
Now I’m no Patrik Laine, but I feel that. I have been in a huuuuuge running slump for a couple of weeks and despite my best efforts to will or wish it away, it stuck around. Again, not Patrik Laine over here, but I have set some running goals and the struggle was very much real.
The worst part is that my running time is my thinking time, yet all I was thinking about was how bad each run went. I didn’t notice the animal tracks that are always a part of my route. I didn’t see the subtle greening that was happening in the trees and pastures around me. I didn’t even stop to visit with the cows. (Okay, usually I accidentally startle the cows which makes a mini-stampede that startles me, and it’s mostly me telling myself out loud that WE ARE ALL FINE.)
The worst WORST part was that I paid no attention to the sunsets.
I live for those sunsets.
Perhaps in a serendipitous twist, the app didn’t turn off after Friday night’s run. When I pulled it up the next day, it said it took me 13 hours and 22 minutes to go 7km.
Thirteen hours and twenty-two loooooong minutes.
I deleted it, of course, because it would kill my app averages, although I’m no Olympic athlete and really, what does it matter??? But it was also oddly freeing. I had lost sight of the myriad reasons that I was out there, none of which had anything to do with the run statistics on that app.
I had lost sight of my why.
When I was out there Saturday night, looking at the beautiful sunset, listening to the cows talk, and getting into a running rhythm, I caught a glimpse of that ‘why’ again. And it had nothing to do with distances or pace or total time.
So many times in education, the focus is on those final numbers, not on the experience and what we took away from it. Honestly, as I was deleting that run from my phone, I suddenly could relate to how kids feel if they bomb an exam in a class that averages marks, or get a zero in something and then see what it does to their final grade.
It decimates it.
For me, I just deleted the run. But what recourses do our students have? How do we determine their overall success? What part do they have in setting their own goals and determining what success looks like for themselves?
As we begin our last semester of this year, it’s a good reminder for me to keep that ‘why’ front and center. And Patrik Laine, I hope you remember yours and find the net again…hopefully in time for playoffs!
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