Recently my family went skiing. My husband is a great skier and the boys, although novices have little fear and like to go straight down the mountain. Me, on the other hand… well needless to say, my skiing leaves a lot to be desired. I don’t so much go down the mountain as I go across the mountain. I am so slow by the time I caught up with my family; they would be ready to go again which left me continually huffing and puffing. We had completed 6 runs before lunch on my first day, which is three times as many runs as I would have done when skiing with my girlfriends.
Determined not to have my boys think women are the weaker of the sexes I hung in (or more adeptly put, hung on). By the afternoon of the first day not only were my legs in distress, but I had developed what I feared would be a permanent tremor of my hands from the death grip I had on the poles. After taking a very nasty fall off the ski lift I had to admit I didn’t have the stamina I needed to ski. I was frustrated, both at myself and my family for not seeing this and doing more to help me. After I calmed down a bit and made the necessary adjustments the next day (i.e. spending more time in the lodge with a good book), I ended up enjoying my time on the slopes. My lesson from all of this–stamina matters.
The lesson of stamina is one that we need to apply to our work with teachers in professional development. We know stamina is important for young learners, but we can’t underestimate its significance with adult learners as well. It’s easy to believe that adults who worked hard to earn degrees and credentials for their chosen profession would be interested and excited about their own continued learning and would have the stamina to engage in deep cycles of learning that demand time and attention. The truth of the matter is that adults like young learners, need to see that the purpose of their learning is meaningful and relevant beyond the task at hand, and need to be engaged in the learning process in order to make meaning of new concepts and ideas.
Think of the times you have walked through classrooms looking for a particular innovation that was shared in professional development (for weeks or months), only to find no evidence of implementation. Think about the times staff has shared their frustrations with you regarding their students’ lack of progress. Maybe this pushback is a result of stamina, or should I say lack of stamina. Have we given our staff enough time (and support) to understand learning new strategies or processes and the relevance it has to their setting? Have we coached teachers using feedback as they try new strategies in their classroom? Do we let teachers reflect and share after implementation so they can identify what went well and why? Do we help them build their stamina? Learning something new is hard work, real work.
After reflecting on my skiing experience on our long trip home, my husband and I agree. I need a lesson. I need to learn more about how to ski well and I need the support an instructor can provide.
During the hectic months ahead it makes sense to ask yourself – what do my teachers need to have the stamina to continue to get better at what they do?