Couch to 2K, to couch then 5K?

running-1944798_640The path to success is seldom a straight line.    My struggles with improving my personal fitness go to prove this.

For several years, I had set a target at the start of each year to try and get fitter or at least to engage in some sort of fitness activity.   Sadly, each year I have ended up prioritizing this target as low and therefore failed to make much progress against it.  I completed courses, read books, completed projects, but neglected the health and fitness aspect of my well-being.  I either couldn’t find the time, couldn’t find an appropriate fitness activity, couldn’t establish a habit or routine or one of a number of other excuses which all sounded plausible and valid to me at the time.

This year I made progress.   I started the couch to 5K programme and for 5 weeks made good progress.   It was becoming increasingly difficult each week as I had to run for longer periods of time however I had built a habit of getting up for my run each morning before work.   I was experiencing some mild aches in my legs but this wasn’t stopping me.  I simply put this down to the strain of the increasing distances.    I was motivated, and I could see the progress I was making.   Each week I was running further and further.   All was going well towards achieving a 5K run.

Then I had a family holiday and took two weeks out.    On my return I decided to jump in at week 4 of the programme, stepping back a week as I thought this would be sufficient to build up the habit again.   I found it difficult to restart my habit of morning runs but I managed it.   After only a couple of runs I started to have painful aches in the left leg in particular.    I gave myself a couple of extra rest days to see if this would help.    It didn’t.    I then tried to work through the aches and pains and this didn’t help either.

I eventually settled with a couple of weeks of rest and decided to go all the way back to week 1 of the programme, which brings us up to this week.    On Monday I wanted to start but made the excuse that it was a bank holiday.    Tuesday wasn’t any good; I cant quite remember what my excuse was, possibly that the first day back after a bank holiday deserved a lie in.    Finally on Wednesday after a significant internal struggle in getting out of bed, I did week 1 run 1 again.  Now, I just need to establish the habit.

As I reflect I can see decisions which impacted my progress, some right decisions and some where in retrospect I may have been wrong.    I can see that motivation has been key.   In the first 5 weeks I could see my increasing fitness level in the increasing times spent running.   This obvious progress kept my motivation up which helped in maintaining my habit.   When I stopped however and when I then had difficulties restarting the progress wasn’t there.  I was running distances less than I had previously managed but having pain in doing so.   It was demotivating and as a result made sustaining the habit difficult.   Trying to get going again was difficult and I must admit to being close this morning to not going for a run, to in effect give up on the whole endeavour.

I have now taken my first step to restarting.   The motivation and habit isn’t there so I will need to rely on my resilience and perseverance.   I suspect this will mean, each morning for the foreseeable future, I will need to fight to get myself out of bed and running rather than having an extra 30mins in bed.   Hopefully in five weeks time I will be back to the same stage I had previously achieved and that I can then go beyond to my eventual goal of 5K.

I wonder how my experiences might be mirrored in student learning?   How do we as teachers help to ensure they remain motivated and develop resilience?






My first 12 books of 2018; done!

20180826_154344I set out this year to continue my habit of trying to read at least one book per month throughout the year.   My aim being to read some light self-help books along with some significantly heavier texts.  I wanted to read across a couple of different topics.

And so, in August the 8th month of year, I finished my 12th book and met my target.   So far I have read:

  • The fourth education revolution, Anthony Seldon
  • Make it stick, Peter C Brown, Henry L Roediger and Mark A McDaniel
  • SUMO (Shut up and move on), Paul McGee
  • The upside of rationality, Dan Ariely
  • Open, David Price
  • The gift of failure, Jessica Lahey
  • Change, Richard Gerver
  • The Cyber Effect, Mary Aiken
  • The $100 Startup, Chris Guillebeau
  • The marshmallow effect, Walker Mischel
  • Mindfulness, Gill Hasson
  • The Art of balance, David J Bookbinder

Although I have hit my target for the year I still look forward to further reading in the remaining months of 2018.    I continue to try to ensure that my bookshelf is never empty of books yet to read.    I think it was in Naseem Talebs Black Swam where he mentioned the importance not of the books you have read, but of the books yet to read.   There is always room to learn more, to refine or change your views and to continue to evolve.   This is something I hope to continue to do.

I must also acknowledge that reading has also become a bit of a wellbeing activity for me.   It provides an opportunity to step away from the stresses and concerns of the working week and managing a household.   It provides me a space to relax.     And on my return to the normal week I often am able to take a fresh perspective on issues or to arrive at new ideas or solutions.

My bookshelf still has a number of books unread on it, including a couple of heavy but interesting titles.   I also intend to revisit a book I read some time ago in Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence.

So with that I will put my laptop down and get back to reading.

Mobile phones in schools (again!)

music-playlist-2The issue of mobile phones in schools is once again raging with various schools deciding to ban mobile phones.   On social media teachers and school leaders are split.   Some occupy the ban all mobiles camp citing mobile phones as a distraction and also concerns around student mental health, addition and screen time in relation to overuse of social media.   Others support the use of mobile phones in classrooms as it provides teachers with an additional tool which can be used to engage students in their learning opening up new opportunities and learning experiences not available without mobile phones.  It also helps in preparing students for the real world where they will invariably need to manage their own phone use.

I have repeatedly stated my view, in that I am for allowing mobile phones in schools.    In the real world we all have phones vying for our attention.   Some adults manage this potential distraction and even addiction better than others.    It is due to this I feel we have a duty to work with students and help them learn to manage their mobile devices and their online presence along with the potential resultant distractions.   If teachers don’t spend time working with students to discuss and consider these issues then who will?

The one question that I would like to raise via this post is, has anyone thought of discussing this issue with students?     We are hearing plenty for educational bodies and individual school leaders and teachers but what about the students.    Have we discussed with them the concerns that those who wish to have mobile phones banned have?    Have we discussed with them the potential positive benefits of having mobile devices in school and in classrooms, along with the potential ways that such devices could be used?    Have we asked them what they think?    Have we discussed creating an agreement for the proper use of mobile devices in school, developed collaboratively between staff and students?

To me banning something is seldom effective.   Work arounds are created making bans ineffective.  Students might simply get sneaky, trying to use their devices when their teachers aren’t looking.   Some students may develop more creative solutions to get around bans.    I suspect the Smart watch may be one such work around.   The students phone would be silent and out of sight however their Smart watch would allow students to continue interacting with social media without ever having to get their phone out and get caught for having it.    Are we going to start banning watches next?

The argument regarding mobile phones in schools continues to draw polar views, as is almost always the case on social media.    The answer, in my eyes, as is the case in most things in the “real” world, lies between the polar opposite views.   For me the answer is to allow mobile phones but to discuss their proper use and the rules around this with the students.    An agreement has to be developed.   Outside of what is agreed, where students cannot use them responsibly then maybe a ban is appropriate, however I would hope in most schools and with most students, that a shared agreement can be reached and both students and teachers can benefit from having another tool available to use in lessons and around school.