How training for a half marathon improved me as a teacher

Contributed by Molly Jones, teacher at ILSC-San Francisco

Molly Jones -Her excitement in San Francisco Marathon

Molly with her medal at the finish line

All the bosses and mentors I’ve ever had tell me the same thing: “A job is a marathon, not a sprint; pace yourself to achieve maximum efficiency.” Regardless of this sage wisdom, I feel like much of my life has been spent in a series of sprints, I overachieve, and after exhausting myself  I underachieve. For example I moved to Bolivia to build houses in impoverished communities with nothing but my boyfriend in tow, and then immediately after I moved back in with my parents. I couldn’t ever find a true balance since I was strung out on the mindset of ‘all in, or all out’.

Now, many of you may think I’m crazy, but when I started training for this half marathon I had just started my new job at ILSC-San Francisco (you should check us out!). It was one of the most enlightening decisions I’ve ever made. Not only did I have a need to spend long periods of time thinking about my new job, but I’d created a time slot in every work day that allowed me the freedom to do just that. Granted, not every day do I find myself thinking about past participles or the proper structure of the past perfect indicative while running, but I frequently find myself reflecting on how I had performed as a teacher.

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The crowds at the 2014 San Francisco Marathon (photo credit: Flickr user Jun Seita)

German - One of her students at ILSC San Francisco

Gérman – One of Molly’s students

I thought about my students’ questions in more detail; questions that plagued me like: “Why is ‘climb’ pronounced with a long /aɪ/ (pronounced /ay/) when ‘slit’ is pronounced with a short / ɪ / (pronounced like the /I/ in sit)?” Thanks Gérman! Turns out, the answer is pretty complex.

Thankfully I was able to leverage the incredible talent at ILSC to help me determine that when you have a single syllable word, you pronounce the word using the alphabet sound. However, there remains lots of caveats to that rule, many of which end with the depressing conclusion that English is a bit convoluted and sometimes you just have to memorize a word (another rule of English). By the way, if you’ve got a different answer to this question, we are still looking! Leave us a comment below.

As I ran along the famous San Francisco Marina with the Golden Gate Bridge looming ahead of me (we take students here often), I came up with better answers to questions. I pushed myself both physically and mentally. I thought through tricky parts of my lesson plan. Essentially, I created a safe space to think about things; a place where only I was held accountable and I was given the freedom to wrestle with myself; a place where the only way to get the answer was to find it myself. That kind of time is a rare thing and I intend to continue to make every effort to maintain and protect it.

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