When I originally listened to my daughter and Daisy tell about their experience with hiking Handies Peak in Part 1, Got A Mountain To Climb: Baby Steps. Are You Ready? We Got This., I thought I knew which direction my posts would take, and then I didn’t. I immediately saw an amazing teachable moment about motivation, failing forward with students, and the guide on the side (Dave Burgess, Teach Like A Pirate) applications. Then I realized it had general life applications, so that’s the direction my first post ended up, real life. As I considered which educational applications to write about in Part 2, I was again struck with the multitude of possibilities even by narrowing it down to education. As a result, there will be at least one more post in this series.
For Part 2, let’s examine and reflect on ourselves as educators when we try new things for our lessons (either in pedagogy and/or technology), or are faced with problems that seem like mountains to climb. We will do this in the structure of Daisy, Shalyn, Austin, and Kiana climbing Handies Peak, so grab your gear. Here we go.
There are at least two different mindsets of teachers when it comes to trying new things in the classroom. We have the go slow, research, get prepared, then go approach, and we also have the Speedy Gonzales crowd. If you had to click the link to understand the allusion there, then you now know I’m old, but let’s examine Speedy first.
In our Part 1 story, Shalyn (my 19 year old daughter) stayed with Daisy, her guide and mentor, listened to her, followed her lead, and more. Kiana (Austin’s 23 year old girlfriend), on the other hand, decided that even though she had never climbed a mountain before, much less a 14’er, she should follow her own strategy. For those of you who read the first post, the answer to a question you may now be pondering is no, her strategy was not to vomit up and down the mountain. That just happened to be an unfortunate by product of her strategy. The reason Kiana took off at the beginning of the hike, continually pushed herself to go faster than her guide and crew, is that she believed that would enable her to have more rest when she stopped to wait for the group to catch up to her. Hiking in high elevations, even up the side of a mountain along established trails, will push your body to limits you weren’t aware of previously. It burns calories. A lot of calories. In order to keep your body going, you have to provide it with calories to replace those you are burning. Energy is a necessity to hiking a mountain. Energy is essential for life. For creativity. For Teaching. For us all.
Kiana didn’t like the bread Daisy choose for their sandwiches (though the groundhogs she fed it to certainly did!). It was a thicker sturdier grain that would hold up to being hauled in backpacks. Even though her sandwiches were made to her specifications (turkey and mayo only, no cheese), the fact that the bread was unfamiliar and of a different texture than usual prevented her from eating the sandwiches. She only ate the granola bars and nuts Daisy had included in their backpacks in order to supplement the sandwiches. Kiana’s body burned calories and didn’t get replenished. Her energy waned, she vomited what she did eat and drink, and her body objected to the abuse.
The “go as fast as you can so you can rest longer” approach reminds me of how educators approach trying new things sometimes. It’s almost like the experience of taking unpleasant medicine. Or ripping off a band-aid. If I hurry, I will get through the hard parts quickly and can then coast through the easier sections of this mountain. Sure. And yes, Kiana did make it up the mountain and back down. However, she did experience physical ailments that the others did not. She made the trip much more difficult and unpleasant than it needed to be. She did not do much to fuel herself with the energy needed to perform well. She had a support system ready to go, already in place, but she chose not only to not use it, but to risk her own health by not taking advantage of the support, experience, and assistance offered by Daisy and Austin. Sound familiar? I’ve been that way in education before, and I hope I’ve learned from my mistake. Let’s put down our packs and rest a second. Have a cool drink of water.
Austin too had climbed 14ers before with his mom, Daisy. He also ran cross country in high school and in college before switching to the college track team. He is no stranger to the value of pacing, teamwork, and experience. And though he worried about her and alternated between Kiana and his mom and Shalyn, Kiana didn’t take advantage of the assistance he could have given her. She received his sympathy, but rejected his help. She got further and further behind as the group worked their way back down the mountain. Her plan backfired. She ran out of gas. Her battery died. As a result, she (Kiana) has no intention of ever climbing a mountain again. Ring a bell? Have you ditched a tech tool or new strategy because it didn’t go well, was too hard, or you blazed right through it without seeking a guide?
Shalyn, on the other hand, knew that she didn’t know everything she needed to climb the mountain. Shalyn didn’t particularly care for the bread either, but she trusted Daisy. She understood that Daisy HAD done this before. Shalyn knew that Daisy found out the hard way about altitude sickness, stress, lack of preparation and training, etc. How did Shalyn know this? Daisy shared it with her, each baby step up that mountain. Daisy let Shalyn know that she wasn’t alone, others had gone before (yes, a Star Trek allusion), and that she, Daisy, had failed but still prevailed. Daisy isn’t an expert climber; she just likes to climb one mountain a year. She doesn’t claim to know everything, but she is not afraid to climb the mountain. Daisy’s not afraid to try, and her enthusiasm and cheerleading, each step of the way, were what helped Shalyn up the mountain. Baby steps. Are you ready? We got this.
The key phrase that Daisy used repeatedly with Shalyn that day was: We got this. Shalyn knew as she stepped out of the truck that she wasn’t climbing the mountain by herself. She had help. She had support. She had a guide with experience. Isn’t that what a PLN (Professional Learning Network) is or does? If you are standing at the foot of a mountain, or even most of the way up but have a few thousand feet left to climb, don’t you want to tap into the power provided by your PLN? Whether it be a personal problem, professional problem, or a new technology you want to try in class, ask that teacher, coach, administrator or counselor who has climbed the mountain before to help you. Ask for support. Put their experience to work for you. Let members of your PLN choose the bread for your sandwiches that you need on the climb. Let someone from your PLN tell you about the times they lost their footing when climbing up or down their own mountain. They can share the mistakes they made and help you avoid them. If a thunderstorm rolls in as you reach the summit, let a member of your PLN provide you with rain poncho. Don’t get wet just to prove you don’t need help. Life is too short, and we have AMAZING things to do. This isn’t a race..We ALL need help. Baby steps. Are you ready? We got this!