Challenges change you

At the CrossFit gym the trainers have t-shirt that say “If it doesn’t challenge you it doesn’t change you.” I like these shirts from a vanity perspective since when a workout is kicking my butt I can imagine the impact it will have on my waist size. I started doing CrossFit this spring. With the encouragement of a colleague I did a Tough Mudder race with the CrossFit team before I really went to the “box” much. Originally I signed up for the race to keep myself motivated to work out and it worked. I worked out regularly (though I still would have liked to do more), stayed in pretty good shape and ran longer than I usually do. Come race week I was petrified. I had not done any sort of competition for at least a few years since I had my son and wasn’t riding horses anymore. There was a pit in my stomach and I realized I was not sure I could do it.

I did it, slowly, very slowly but I did it. At the tunnel with water where you couldn’t see the end I paused and needed a teammate to help me overcome my claustrophobia and crawl through. I finished muddy, with blisters, sore and tired and felt like I could take on the world. I signed up for a half marathon I will be running this fall before the high wore off.

Its funny that I did not make a connection to the Tough Mudder and my new love for CrossFit with my change in jobs until just now. After 6 years in a very lovely job as a 5th and 6th grade math and science teacher at a small, progressive Charter School, I too a new job as an alternative education science teacher at a Regional non-charter public high school. It was scary to leave my comfort zone, my colleagues, my friends, my students and all I had built but I knew it was a valuable move. I was not feeling challenged anymore in my old job and was not continuing to evolve and improve as a teacher. There was too much whining and complaining about things I couldn’t change. I was focused heavily on math and missed my time on science, my original focus in education.

About to return to my 2nd year I could not be happier I made the move. It was very hard and a lot of work to start all over again. Many times I worried I was not smart enough, not clear enough with my students, not organized enough, not good enough; it challenged me and it changed me. My teaching is better, my planning is better, my grading is better, my projects are better and I think my classes will be better this year. It is not a coincidence that this change coincided with my exploration of Twitter as a tool for professional development. I have a professional account now and tons of resources and information from amazing educators and professionals in all areas of education from around the world. That Professional Learning Network (PLN) continues to challenge me and hopefully change me for the better. So I guess it reminds me as I start a new year to keep challenging myself and keep changing. I would hope all educators ask themselves once in awhile, when was the last time I felt challenged? Hopefully it wasn’t too long ago.