The importance of stretching

This morning I was in one of many Twitter chats (I might have a problem) and a question came up about what sorts of things keep us from progression. My first thought was resistance. When we are met with something we are unsure of or unfamiliar with we might resist at first. It doesn’t mean that we will always (that type of mindset is not helpful to anyone) but at first, the unknown, can be scary.

I think about the gym and working out. When I first get down to the gym in the morning I usually do a very light exercise to stretch out my muscles that have been sleeping for a few hours. Maybe a nice prolonged stretch on the muscles I will be targetting, loosen them up. Avoid a stress that could become damage that needs repairing.

Take that thinking into the classroom. New learning (exercises) that we do not help our students prepare for (stretch) can be met with resistance and if we push too hard it will damage the student’s willingness to try again.  I am coming up against this with Voice and Choice at times. Too much responsibility too soon. Not enough time stretching, that gradual release of responsibility model is so important and a step I have not always had the patience to wait for. Just like the gym getting a chance to warm up to something will help students attain greater success.

The same can be said for our coworkers. When I first came out of University I was all stretched and ready to lift heavy things, see I was going to put the whole weight of all the success of all my students on my shoulders and just go, go, go. I was going to win awards, my coworkers would write odes about my brilliance and I would be asked to share that brilliance with the world. I am sure it goes without saying there was resistance to this plan, a lot of it. What I thought was eager and energetic others took as egotistical, what I thought was helpful others saw as hardheaded. I did not give time or opportunities for people to stretch to meet my first-year excitement and maybe even more importantly I saw their resistance to do things the way I learned, the current, the “best practice” way, as just some old teaching dinosaurs lazy way out. Boy was I wrong. The problem was not them, at least not totally, the biggest problem was I wanted people to change too fast. I wanted them to abandon their comfort zone before they were ready, I needed to give them time to stretch. Learning that I also benefitted from the wisdom they shared that I was not at first open to.

“We need to walk before we can run” is a phrase I hear often, this too has taken on a different meaning and power for me lately. Version 1.0 of teacher Brent thought that was an excuse, I mean I ran everywhere (figuratively, of course, I am more likely to eat a donut than get on a treadmill) so others should just get moving too. Version 2.0 has made room for the fact that change is necessary but also scary. It is going to take time for some to jump on the change train.

A colleague the other day was discussing that at a tech PD he attended they expressed that more businesses would be concerned with students that could code than if they were high school graduates. This causes me some concern but the world is changing. We should not resist this change to the point of causing harm but I understand now the need to stretch. The need to prepare. Small steps are not only ok but they might help us avoid educational injury. Progress is better than setbacks. Even if for some an inch at a time is what they need, that is better than pushing them beyond their capabilities, inadvertently helping them build walls around their teaching that make the discussions around NEXT practices so difficult.

Let’s look forward and move forward at the pace that is comfortable for us. Stretch a bit along the way, adjust to the change. Who knows we might just find we have abilities that we never would have explored if we didn’t try. Just move forward, otherwise, our students might be leaving us behind.




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