It’s December. The excitement of the season is in full force. The students in your classroom are falling apart at the seams. Creativity is waning. Productivity is at an all time low. You need a break. It’s time to take a walk.
Research shows that taking a walk can boost your productivity, put you in a better mood and get your creative juices flowing. A study at New Mexico Highlands University concluded that there is a boost in the supply of blood to the brain with the strike of a footstep. Stanford researchers also found that the performance of “creative divergent thinking” is more apparent after test participants took a walk. Finally, a study out of Duke University concluded that walking may be equally as effective as medication for some patients facing depression.
But there is so much more that the phrase “go for a walk” can lead to.
Walk into New Ideas
As an instructional coach, I have the fun advantage of walking into multiple classrooms throughout the day. My role allows me to see exciting new ways of instruction and pass this knowledge on to others. I don’t hold the keys to the best ideas . . . I get to learn from others in the field, and practice the best pieces that I have the gift of seeing. This is why I often ask the teachers I work with to get out of their classrooms and go see other examples of great instruction. Our ability to see just a little “tweak” to a lesson or a routine can spark new ideas or “spark joy” and new change that rejuvenates our instruction.
With 26 years now under my belt in the teaching world, I have learned that each and every time I stretch myself to try something new, I grow, I renew, I create new passion for my profession. This has led me to try new things and step out into new terrain that seems very overwhelming. I got out of my building and my district and connected with my ESD. This led me to apply to be a fellow in both ELA and Mathematics over the years and work collaboratively with other teacher leaders across my area. I wasn’t always comfortable that’s for sure, but in my discomfort, I grew. After a few years in my ESD Fellows Network, I took a leap and applied to be part of the Corelaborate group. Here again, I was faced with my fears of being “less than” others in my profession. But, I discovered an amazing new family of teacher leaders/learners that encouraged me to try new things. In so doing, my world opened up! I made connections with teachers across the state, and new virtual learning communities online as well. I just needed to take the first step!
Walk to Reflect
We often ask our students to stop and “notice” or “wonder” prior to the introduction of a task. “What do you notice about the pattern of numbers?” or “ What do you wonder will happen next in the story?” The same should be asked of ourselves. Have we taken the time to notice and wonder? In Ryan Holiday’s latest book Stillness is the Key, he writes about many famous people in history who took advantage of walking as a way to reflect and rejuvenate their body and mind. From Martin Luther King Jr. to Dorothy Day to Steve Jobs, one commonality in their lives was their propensity to walk in order to clear their minds and be reflective. Holiday explains that creating a stillness within through walking is not a “frenzied motion or even a conscious motion.” He concludes that it is an “exercise in peace.” Another Corelaborate Post reminds us to “reflect and simplify . . to find balance.” Taking the time to go for a walk, allows us the opportunity to notice and wonder, generating the art of reflection. As we consider balance and boundaries in our lives, a walk may be just what we need to make worthwhile decisions in our personal and professional lives.
Walk in Other’s Shoes
Making assumptions about things in the midst of our attempt to understand a situation can send us down a dangerous slide into judgement and stagnate the growth we need as a collective staff or community of learners. When we slow down to walk in someone else’s shoes we stop making assumptions, we are less likely to take things personally and we are able to communicate with kindness. There might be times when the shoes feel too big, or maybe they are a little small and start to pinch our toes, but rather than focus on our own feet, take a minute to look at the shoes. What path have they traveled? Where have they come from? What journeys have they traveled that we might learn from? It is amazing when we take just a little time to get to know the person behind the role. You might gain a whole new perspective with just a few questions of interest.
Walk with a Buddy
There are times we need to walk alone and reflect, and there are times we need the companionship that walking with a buddy can provide. Collaboration and relational capacity is built on the effort of joining the journey together. If you have big ideas and places you want to go in your role, sometimes it helps to take someone along with you for the ride. Grab a buddy and put on your walking shoes and maybe . . . literally . . . go for a walk and talk about it. The same can be said for you with your students. I wrote an earlier post this year about getting to really know your students. Do you want to connect with a student that you are struggling with? Go for a walk down the hall with him or her, walk out at recess and learn more about them. Show them you are willing to go the extra mile to make that connection.
So as we break from the schedule of school for a little while I encourage you to go for a walk. Refresh, re-energize and renew your plans for the year ahead. That walk might lead you down a path to more than you imagined.
“It is only ideas gained from walking that have any worth” - Friedrich Nietzsche
- learning communities
- relational capacity