Monday Motivators: 65,000 Steps

Challenges:  They get me in trouble.  I cannot say “no” to them.  So when my blogging buddy Laura started her Monday Motivators to challenge and motivate herself and her friends to do whatever it is they need to do that week, I signed on immediately.  My challenge: walk 60,000 steps in 5 days.

The fitness powers-that-be suggest 10,000 steps a day, but working at a school and being on my feet all day helps me attain almost 6-8,000 steps.  Walking to the mailbox and regular daily living walking helps make up the difference.  That’s not very challenging. 12,000 steps requires more from me, and to reach that goal, I need to come home after being on my feel all day and do a workout.  That is a challenge.

But I made it.  I actually did a little over 60,000 steps and here’s my plan of attack:

1. Wear the FitBit.  My FitBit tracks all of my steps, and sometimes after I shower, I forget to put it on right away.  That means I walk around the house getting ready for work and those steps are not tracked.  This can add up to over 500 steps!

2. Plan ahead.  Last week I knew I had an all-day meeting Wednesday, a book club in the evening Thursday, and a tuckered body on Friday.  These days were going to be low-step days, so I planned to work out Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday afternoons.  On Monday and Tuesday I exceeded 12,000 steps in order to make up for the rest of the week’s deficit.

3. The mini-challenge.  On Thursday and Friday, know that I would need to get in some good steps at work, I gave myself mini-challenges.  For example, during class I checked my steps on my FitBit (I love my FitBit) and challenged myself to walk a certain amount of steps in a limited amount of time.  This had an added benefit of keeping my students on task: at any moment I could be doing a lap around their desks.

4.  Take the long way.  My classroom is close to everything: the front office, the library, the bathroom, the elevator.  Fortunately my room is on the second floor, so there is ample opportunity to take the stairs.  However, with everything so close I often create “long ways” of getting places.  It might take a minute or two longer to get somewhere, but the steps add up quickly (you’d be surprised).

5. A little help from students.  Some of my students know that I am trying to get in my steps.  Some cheer me on, while others are sneaky.  One day a student called me over to him. After walking across the room to see what he needed, he grinned, “Nothing.  Just helping you get in some more steps.”

This week has less demands on my time, so my goal is to reach 65,000 steps.

Readers, if you have not met my lovely friend, Laura, click on the link above and check out her blog.  Let her motivate you, too!

A Good Start

It’s Friday evening.  I’ve had some pizza.  I’ve had half a glass of wine (it never takes much).  I’m feeling pretty good.  Overall, I’m pretty amazed at how smooth this first week back at school has been.

Normally, there is always a class that makes me go, “ugh.”  It’s either full of underperformers or has some special “gems” that love to challenge me. This week I didn’t have any of that.  All of my classes are good and have positive energy.  I do have some students who like to toe the line, but they are easy to rein in with little effort.  There were a few that I had to have a “chat” with about not turning in work, but they turned it in the next day (half credit, of course) and there was one sacrificial lamb (but he quickly redeemed himself and has been wonderfully well-mannered ever since).

What I am most amazed by is my growth as a teacher.  This is my sixth year, and every year it gets better, but I am still amazed by my confidence.  I can convey to the students that this is “my classroom.”  I don’t have to worry or be sarcastic; I can be firm and matter-of-fact.  Last term I didn’t lose my temper once (a record, really), and I feel like I can do it again.  Because of this confidence, they are less likely to challenge or question me. A teacher’s confidence breeds good behavior (not always, but mostly), and kids need to know that someone’s in charge and has their best interest at heart.

I am looking forward to this term and discovering what new things it will bring. I am looking forward to knowing where these kids are now and seeing how far they can go.  I am looking forward to the challenges I can bring them and the challenges they, inevitably, will bring me.

Oddly Enough, Your Life Is Based On A True Story

Yesterday I read Duana Easley’s post The Comfort? Zone in which she discusses a conference that posited how the world better place if we lived our lives like a story.  She writes, “If we give the way we live our lives the same thought and importance that we would use on a story we are writing, the world would become a better place. Donald Miller, the conference speaker, said, ‘The best way to change the world is to tell a good story with your life.'” She continues her post by recounting a lesson she presented to her students about what it means to be “comfortable” and how ultimately, comfort holds us back.

The idea of living our lives as if they were stories resonated with me, for it boils down the messiness of life into literary terms: characters, setting, theme, conflict, plot, and tone (if you prefer your life to be a poem, then mood).  We are all characters, and we must ask, like Dicken’s David Copperfield, if we will “turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anyone else…?” We alone can only decide what kind of people we wish to be and determine if we are in control of our lives or give that power to others.  Much of the setting we find ourselves in, we cannot control.  We cannot control what year it is nor can we control the beliefs, customs, and rules in the area that we live in.  We can control our responses to them.  If we live in an ugly setting, we can beautify it.  Even To Kill A Mockingbird‘s Mayella Ewell attempted to add beauty to her junkyard house by planting geraniums.  But will the setting be the hero of your story?  Will you let it define you?   Mayella’s, unfortunately, defined her.  With theme, we can think about what message our lives should represent.  What lessons can be taken from our everyday actions or our eulogies?  For some us it’s about kindness; for others, perseverance.  But deciding on our life’s message can help in shaping our conflicts, plot, and tone.  Granted, we cannot always control the issues and events that life throws at us, but by having a theme, it can lead us to decide which battles we really want to fight and the things we want to participate in.  All of this boils down to the tone of your life.  What is the attitude your life will take?  Is life a journey or to be endured?

This philosophy of life as story makes a lot of sense, especially today when there is so much talk about being “present in the moment” and emphasis on living “the good life” and “having it all”.  But what does all of this mean?  What is “the” good life?  What does “all” encompass?  I have a home, a job, and a loving husband.  Is this good enough?  Is it “all” or am I missing something?  Isn’t more important to live “a” good life?  To compound this issue, there are a variety books, articles, and programs out there designed to make you happy with your life.  How many people have you heard about participating in “happiness projects”?  Does organizing family photos or bills really make one happy?  It may actually feel a bit stressful.  I once read an article that said that people who focused on their own happiness were less happy than those who didn’t. Happiness, or having it all, cannot be commodified and made into a product.  One cannot fill a happiness piggy-bank and expect it to gain interest, nor is there a guaranteed return on one’s investment.  Doing projects to make oneself happy or going after the ideal of “having it all” do not necessarily breed contentment; instead they make other things the hero of one’s life.

But thinking of your life as a story places you as the hero.  You can determine how your story will be written.  If you do not like the way your story is being written, you can change it. There’s a reason why plot twists exist.  Granted, this is easier said than done, which is why some people’s themes might be perseverance, but imagine how much happier we would be.  This doesn’t mean that your life would have a story book ending or that each day would be full of adventure and glory– to recount a discussion between two of my lit professors, one who claimed Dickens was episodic and the other who retorted, “Life is episodic!”.  But being in control of your own episodic life is much more satisfying than being a slave to other’s.

Easley’s second point was about comfort and how it holds us back.  We are often loathe to try new things because they are uncomfortable, or we stay in toxic situations because it’s what we know.  Comfort, though, weaves its spell and prevents us from being the hero of our own stories.  It gives us the illusion that we’re in control, but really it holds the reins.  Just like writing in real life is hard and challenging, if we wish to be authentic, we must challenge ourselves to move beyond what is comfortable if we wish to be our own heroes.