As I sat down to write tonight’s blog, I had a split-second of indecision…it’s already so late and I’m not convinced I have anything to write about…but then I knew that I had to.
There really is something to be said for sticking to a task, and like missing a day or two of exercise, it only makes the next one harder.
So let’s see what comes through the keyboard with a little bit of pressure!
It’s not the worst thing in the world either. I’m not sure if it’s just teachers, but so many times I think we forget the saying, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” Especially now in the time of COVID, when we are working in previously unknown conditions, prepping courses in previously untried ways, there are some things that we just have to let go.
I read an article earlier tonight called, “What My Sled Dogs Taught Me About Planning for the Unknown.” TBH, I was mostly drawn to the picture of the huskies first, the title second.
If you read this blog, you’ll know that we had to put down our 14 year old husky Luka this spring. And from the stories I’ve told, I hope that you have gleaned that huskies can be…ummm…difficult. They are fiercely independent, and as I often said about Luka, the GPS in his head never functioned.
He would run and run and run.
If you have a few minutes, read the whole article! But because I know that time is of the essence and if you’re actually here reading this, that might be as far as you get. So these are some of the parts that stood out most for me:
“Here’s the thing about sled dogs: They never know how far they’re going to run…but each time my dogs hit the trail, they run hard - they give it everything they’ve got. That’s fine if we’re going 10 miles, or 30, distances they can cover easily in a few hours….But what if we’re going a hundred miles, or a thousand? Asking sled dogs to pace themselves, to slow it down, is like asking a retriever to only fetch one ball out of three: It goes against their very instinct.”
Hmmm. I know people like this.
“Having a plan made me feel confident and safe. And then I got into long-distance dog sledding and I discovered that the only thing worse than not having a plan was the stress of having one and constantly breaking it. Working with dogs in the wilderness means negotiating countless shifting variables: snow and wind, wild animals, open water, broken equipment, each dog’s needs and changing mood.”
Countless shifting variables. 2020 in a nutshell.
“I learned that plans, when I made them, were nothing but a sketch; the only thing I needed to count on was that the dogs and I would make decisions along the way. So how do you throw yourself into the unknown - and better yet, feel OK about it? How do you settle into an endurance challenge with no idea when it will end?”
Ah, there’s the rub.
And the author gives some great advice: rest. In particular, front-loading rest.
(The irony of writing this at 11pm and not going to bed is not lost on me haha.)
“It’s far easier to prevent fatigue than to recover from it later. But resting early, anticipating your dogs’ needs, does something even more than that: It builds trust. A sled dog learns that by the time she’s hungry, her musher has already prepared a meal; by the time she’s tired, she has a warm bed…And it’s this security, this trust, that lets her pour herself into the journey, give the trail everything she has without worrying about what comes next.”
I watched a group of students excitedly peering in their microscopes the other day, waving me over to show their discoveries. Masks on. Engaged. Pouring themselves into their learning journey. Trusting us.
“Because if you don’t know how far you’re going, you need to act like you’re going forever.”
I read a pandemic dystopian novel this weekend. I know that we hope for a vaccine and think of a return to normality. In the book, there was no end game. Normal never returned. It’s a bit of a depressing read, I’ll be honest! But there were ways where life…living…continued. In fact, a recurring line was “survival isn’t sufficient.”
“Planning for forever is essentially impossible, which can actually be freeing: It brings you back into the present…what matters is that, to the degree you can, you make your own life sustainable every day.”
*Makes mental note*
“Sled dogs can run farther, in a shorter time, than almost any other animal. But they only think as far ahead as they can see, hear, and smell..It is, in its way, that simple.”
That makes me think of Terry Fox, and what I wrote about last week…how he ran to the next curve, to the next hill, etc. And those small pieces added up to a marathon, each and every day.
Just like the dogs, we need to take care of ourselves in case we are in a long stretch, and since we can't see too far ahead, just truly make the best of where we are at this moment.
And it doesn’t have to be perfect either.
“What My Sled Dogs Taught Me About Planning for the Unknown” by Blair Braverman https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/23/sports/sled-dogs-mushing-unknowns-planning.html
It’s hard to believe that it has been 40 years since Terry Fox ran 5,373 kilometers across Canada in his Marathon of Hope.
This year’s run was held virtually, where everyone was encouraged to take part wherever you were and in whatever capacity you were able.
“One day, your way.”
For me, I ran 12km yesterday and another 3km today. I like to run, but there is no way that I will ever complete a half-marathon, let alone a full marathon, in my life. Terry ran a marathon. Every. Single. Day. And not always in beautiful fall 26C weather. A lot of the early clips are from snowy, cold Atlantic Canada. In so many ways, it is beyond anything that most of us can fathom.
Despite everything, he persevered until the very end, and then only wished that Canadians would carry on: “Even if I don’t finish, we need others to continue. It’s got to keep going without me.” And in schools and communities across the world, it has.
There are so many lessons that Terry and his legacy continue to teach us.
One that sticks with me was his approach to running each day. You would think that he would focus on the marathon distance of the day. That it would be tempting to count the kilometers off. My app does that. One kilometer. Two. Three.
But Terry didn’t do that. He didn’t think about running the whole 42kms.
He thought about getting to the top of the hill.
Then the curve in the road.
Then the next signpost.
…as each of these small goals were achieved, the kilometers added up, the marathon distance completed. Until 4am the next morning when he would begin again.
I’m sure that Terry never lost sight of his overall goal, to cross Canada and return home to British Columbia, but each grueling day passed by accomplishing many small goals along the way.
It’s a good way to look at a lot of things in life.
As we are now at the six month mark of pandemic living, much of it has been passed by making it through one day at a time. There’s not much point in looking too far down the road, because we can’t see it clearly and conditions are constantly changing anyway.
The school year is similar.
We are trying to prepare for so many scenarios, and depending on what happens in each of our communities in terms of COVID spread, any number of things could happen.
So although year plans are made, we are mostly looking at the road right in front of us.
When I run, it’s literally navigating the washboard gravel roads and the deep hoof prints from horses on the prairie trail, trying not to sprain an ankle. At school, it’s gauging how to pace a quint-semester and to keep consistent and meaningful contact with students who aren’t in the classroom.
But it’s also taking time to look around: the deep, warm fall colors changing almost before my eyes, and the herd of deer sprinting across the road, so effortlessly leaping the fences before they disappear into the forest. It’s also taking time in the classroom: despite feeling pressure, to not rush, letting students delve into their books, to flush out ideas, and to let conversations continue when students are digging deeper into a topic.
I hope that forty years from now, Canadians still remember Terry Fox. Still walk or run as they are able. Still carry Terry’s optimism and hope for a cure for cancer. Maybe we will even be using this day to celebrate cancer's cure.
And to really embrace this idea: one day, your way.
Every day. For as long as we are given.
Just like Terry.
When I was in my second year in the music program at university, a guest clinician came to campus. His name was Roger Behrend, and he was the principal euphonium player for the U.S. Navy Band. A big deal.
Cool. I played euphonium.
Had I heard of him?
That was likely forgivable, considering I was coming from a pretty sheltered band experience in my rural school. But when I was given the amazing experience of a private lesson with him and he asked what professional euphonium players I listened to, I couldn’t name one.
*Up until the previous moment, not even him.*
I don’t remember his exact words, but the gist of it was this: how do you know what a euphonium should sound like, if you have never heard it played skillfully?
That my friends, was a great friggen question.
One that I didn’t have an answer for either.
It’s a good thing that Mr. Behrend was a great, down-to-earth guy, who probably took a bit of pity on me. The lesson was phenomenal. I learned more about my instrument that day than I had in the whole of it before. He gave me a copy of his CD too lol.
But it’s stuck with me.
I muddled my way through years on my instrument without ever having heard its beauty. Its tone. Its capabilities. (It’s not suitable to repeat what the tuba player beside me said when he first played for us…but wow…the man hit notes I hadn’t known existed.)
Hearing him play was inspiring and suddenly I had a new understanding of what I could also do.
If we don’t provide exemplars for our students, how will they know what is possible too? And yes, I’m thinking of writing, but it is no different for empathy, patience, and resilience. Generosity, humility, and kindness. No matter our age, we all need (and can be) important examples.
Sorry this is another short one! New courses, so there was a lot of prep work this weekend. Pretty tired lol. And if you’re feeling it too, you’re probably glad I didn’t ramble on and then have to pretend that you read it when in fact, you didn’t. <raised eyebrow looking at you haha>
Have a great week ahead! Really looking forward to having everyone back together again tomorrow.
Perpetual amateur. Lifelong learner. Vice-Principal. Teacher. Musician. Mom. Annnnd if you're reading this, then I'm still a blogger.