This weekend my wife, father in law, and I ran in the Marathon 2 Marathon (M2M) out in Marathon, TX. There are many reasons why I run but until this race experience my reasons have been geared toward me. My newest reason for running is related to building community.
If you do not know, Marathon is located in deep West Texas, north of the big bend region. With a population of just over 400 people you could call this a sleepy little West Texas town. This past weekend, Marathon was anything but sleepy. There were more than 500 runners that had descended upon the small town and the residents welcomed us all with open arms.
The race director, Marci Roberts, really welcomed all of the runners and showed her human side when she spoke about her why behind all of the work she puts in to the M2M. All of the money raised by the marathon, half marathon, 10k, and 5k is spread across the community to keep the community going. She became emotional while addressing the crowd of runners gathered for the outstanding post-race BBQ meal prepared by the Marathon Volunteer Fire Department and the award ceremony that followed.
Marci has been successful in uniting a community behind a wonderful event that unites a small town in the middle of the West Texas desert. She has recruited the help of high school students through the ROTC program to man the water stations and many local residents to provide a wonderful atmosphere for runners. Shops welcomed runners into their stores. The volunteer fire department cooked for the runners. Law enforcement, EMS, and local residents patrolled the course to assist runners over 26.2 miles (or less). School buses shuttled runners to the start areas. Everyone in Marathon was so thankful and appreciative to host us for a few short hours while we pushed ourselves as runners and as people. It was a community effort to make this a wonderful day!
I have been fortunate to call myself a runner for the last 10 years of my life. In those 10 years I have really learned just how welcoming and inclusive the running community is to all runners. Having run races in Dallas, Houston, New York, San Angelo, Pagosa Springs, Bryan, College Station, Nacogdoches, Marathon and traveling to the Boston Marathon twice to watch my father in law run I have witnessed the inclusiveness regardless of the location. Each race has one thing in common, support, encouragement, perseverance, and happiness. Building community through charities and worthy causes as a result of runners willing to support and participate is extremely common for most running events.
Marathon 2 Marathon was slightly different. The money raised impacted the entire community because it was shared throughout the entire community. The impact the small community of Marathon, TX has felt because of the M2M is enormous. It is more than a “shot in the arm” as Marci so emotionally described before the awards ceremony.
This weekend was the example of building community. Everyone came together and did what was needed to provide a great experience. Community is all about teamwork and collaboration. They have accomplished that in Marathon, TX. I am happy and fortunate to have been able to observe it in action.
This is why I run.
I have been listening to a lot of podcasts lately. I really did not realize just how much excellent learning could be had from this type of media but there is so much. While my wife and I were traveling in West Texas we were on short supply of radio stations so we brought up the podcasts on the phone. We came across this one The Meaning of Work – TED Hour Podcast -- You should give it a listen and see what you think.
As a public school principal I am always reading and listening to what the business industry says they need in their employees since we are educating the future. I am always looking to see how we can better engage students and teachers in the learning process. This podcast started me thinking about the role that we, as school systems, play in the problem being discussed in “The Meaning of Work” podcast. I decided to watch the TED Talk that inspired this podcast.
Take about 15 minutes to watch it and see what you think.
The research of the regular chickens and the super chickens is humorous at first but as Margaret continues to tell the story and then continues on about her work, experiences, and thinking related to the research there was less humor for me.
Think back to your childhood. Most of us are told all our lives we have to compete. Often is begins at home and it continues in school. We have to be better than the students next to us. Parents and schools place us in competition with each other over class rank, GPA, Top 10%, etc. We are ranked, ordered, and classified based off how we perform on tests. We have to beat everyone in everything that we do.
Now, please know that I think competition is a good thing and there is not anything wrong with healthy competition. When we compete to push ourselves, work hard for achievement, and learn from the results of our competition, we grow.
Is the high stakes environment we have created in schools really going to promote growth? Is ranking and ordering students from best to worst the best answer to how to solve the world’s issues and problems? Is this the type of healthy competition that promotes real growth in students? Not according to Margaret Heffernan.
Social capital and social connectedness is the key to success in the world. Have you ever heard the saying that is it is not what you know as much as who you know? Why do you think that is true? Margaret discusses how companies are redesigning their structures to place the emphasis on collaboration and teamwork. Shouldn’t we do the same in schools?
Are we really in the business of creating “super chickens” that will end up pecking each other to death? Shouldn’t we focus more on the teamwork and collaboration and teach students how to work together to achieve success? That seems to be the way business is moving. If we do not teach children to work together and to collaborate effectively then why do we think they will be able to do so as adults?
Think. Achieve. Succeed.
Last year my ELA teachers and I traveled to Katy, TX to watch and learn from the ELA teachers at Morton Ranch Jr High. We were interested in how they utilized the Readers and Writers Workshop model in 45 minutes in a middle school setting. I wrote about our experience in this blog post here. Today was an opportunity for our school to return the favor.
My friend and fellow principal from Katy ISD, Dr. Sanee Bell contacted me and said that she wanted to bring her math team to AMCMS and observe how we teach math. Sanee and I first met through the Texas Principals’ Vision Institute through N2Learning where we really learned the value of making connections between campuses. Today’s visit was just as valuable for me and my teachers as it was for her and her teachers.
When you know that you are going to have visitors and you will be questioned about what you are doing, you are going to be engaged in your work. This is the power of peer observations. Whether your peers are from across the hall or from across the state, it does not matter, the accountability to each other is still the same. You want them to observe something they can take away and put into place in their daily work.
As an administrator I challenge you to develop these types of relationships with your fellow principals. In district our out of district, it does not matter. Your teachers and students benefit from these relationships. Go visit another school and see what you can learn from them. Allow others to visit you and see what they can learn from you. What you will find out is you will learn from each other.
The observations are conversation starters for you and your team of teachers. Take what you observed and learned, apply it to your current reality and make it your own. Don’t wait for perfection because you will never get started.
As a classroom teacher I challenge you to be open to being observed. If your principal has invited others to come in and observe you it is because your principal thinks you have something worth learning from going on in your room. Is it nerve wracking to have guests? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes! Why? Because you are refining your craft and pushing yourself to be your best.
If you are asked to go and watch a peer teach, go in with an open mind and an eye for something new or different. Take pictures of what you like, notes of what is working and what you want to implement in your classroom. Leave them a positive note to share what you noticed and what you appreciated about their work.
In the end, everyone grows professionally. That is the power in this type of learning.
Think. Achieve. Succeed.
Director of Instruction and Leadership Development
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are
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