Falling Out of Love

My previous post detailed the joys of running and writing and training with your athletes in the same way you would write along with your students. But what happens when you fall out of love with running and with teaching? Both happened to me.

Some days, running is really painful. I have tendinitis in one ankle from an old high school injury, patellar tendinitis (pain in the middle of my knee), and a neuroma that flares up between my 3rd and 4th metatarsals (just imagine a nail going into your foot with each step, and that’ll give you an idea what it feels like).

In my most recent half-marathon race, all three of these things hit me, and by mile 7, I was ready to call it quits. But the problem, I figured out, was that even if I stopped, I would still have to walk to the finish, and moving my legs and feet at all was terrible, so I decided to just keep on running and get it over with sooner. I also had a wonderful lady who thought we were wearing the same shoes, run with me for the last three or four miles. She thought I was helping her, but really, she was keeping me going. I’ve never been more happy for a race to be finished.

So, after that race, I realized that my long distance career was over. I used to love those long runs because they were freeing, and I was really proud of how far my legs could carry me. But now, it’s just so painful, there’s nothing freeing about it.

Five years ago, this is how I felt about my teaching career. When I first starting teaching, I told myself that I knew I would have bad days, but when I had an entire week that was bad, I needed to do something about it. And then it happened. A whole bad week.

It was my first year teaching freshmen. Over half the class of 33 were repeaters and a third had specialized learning plans. I was at my wit’s end. I felt like I had no support from administration, all of my subject-matter colleagues were teaching that same block, so they couldn’t help me, and I was losing control. To top it off, I battled mono that semester and then shingles. Teaching wasn’t enjoyable anymore.

A school year later, I found myself in a job outside of the classroom, working in instructional technology. I found a bit of peace in not having to discipline students or failing them (literally, figuratively). I’ve been out of the classroom officially for three years now, but I’ve spent that time working with teachers and faculty members, developing instructional practices and online courses.

I haven’t stopped running since my last half-marathon, but I certainly haven’t been running as much or as far. I’ve actually discovered I really like biking and rowing and taking long walks with my husband and dogs just as much as I like running. This diversity of exercise helps to keep things interesting, but also means that on days when I do run, it’s not nearly as painful.

Sometimes we have to step away from what we love, or used to love, in order to renew our passion for it. And maybe the passion never comes back in the way it once was, but now it’s something new, and something shaped by a variety of experiences rather than a tunnel-like vision on one goal, one activity, one classroom.

In my time outside of the classroom, I actually spent a lot of time in classroom, they were just other people’s and not my own. I got to see good teaching, great teaching, and moments of teaching we all wish we didn’t have. I got to have conversations with people about teaching, literacy, technology, assignment design, caring for students, and curriculum planning. I got to hear their ideas, create collaborative presentations and truly learn from my colleagues. I also got to see what I didn’t like about myself as a teacher and how I could fix that.

This past semester I was able to teach a course; just one single, three credit hour course. It was fun again.

I think someday I’ll return to teaching. Someday too I’ll return to racing. And when I do, I’ll be a different teacher and I’ll be a different athlete. What’s important, when I do return, is to make sure that my life, and my workouts, have more balance.