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Running Thoughts: Grit

5 September 2012

This morning I ran 5.05 miles in 52:41. It wasn’t my best time for 5 miles, but it was a much-needed improvement over Monday’s awful run. I was frustrated after Monday’s run. I was ready to give up. (I give special thanks to Scott Elias and Phyllis Moore for the encouragement they sent my way via Twitter.)

I could make lots of excuses for why Monday’s run was sub par. In fact, I think I will. It was hot, humid, and later in the day than I typically run. I had injured a toe, and I had taken too many days off. Regardless of all these factors, it was terrible run. I was miserable, and two-thirds of the way through my run I quit. I couldn’t finish. I was ticked. My runner’s ego (Is that a thing?) bruised. I had been training for months and after Monday it felt as though it had all been a waste. I had set a myself a distance goal, then failed to reach it. I wanted to quit, to pitch my Brooks in the garbage.

Why do I bother waking at 4:45 AM, again? What’s the point?

Today was different, though. I forced myself out of bed this morning and hit the streets again. The road was dark, quiet, lonely; my body was tired. I set my running app for a 5 mile distance run then headed into the darkness. It wasn’t pretty. At the 2-mile mark I tired, but I continued making good time. At the 3-mile mark my pace slowed, but I keep going. As I finished the fourth mile, I grit my teeth and told myself “I will finish this.” Stride by stride, I did.

Talk of “embracing failure” is all the rage in my learning spaces these days. I get it. We want students to understand things won’t always be easy. We desire for them to be comfortable taking risks and making mistakes. We hope to build their resilience–their grit. None of this is bad. Perhaps, it’s even good. I know I’ve waved the flag for this cause myself. But let’s be careful not to glamorize failure. Failure hurts. It shakes the core. Failure sucks.

Sure. We must challenge ourselves as teachers, and we should push our students, too. Perhaps, we should occasionally be less helpful and more often set the bar beyond their reach. I”m certain we should discuss handling setbacks and encourage their stick-to-it-iveness. But let’s be careful how we talk of failure. Failure, especially on a grand scale, isn’t pretty. It’s not cool or glamorous. It is crushing. It hurts.

So yes, let’s teach our kids to be resilient. Let them know success requires grit and determination, achievement involves overcoming struggles and mistakes. But let’s not overly romanticize failure. I’ll skip the embrace, as well.

Writing Time Limit: 45 minutes.

Running Thoughts are “process” posts of the thoughts I have while running. Often, they relate to my job as a school teacher. Running thoughts are just that–running, a thinking aloud about ideas I have. They are not fully formulated or even polished an are very much in the developing phase. By all means please consider them, challenge them, or help me clarify them. Just don’t hold me too them. The oxygen is needed in my muscles and likely is lacking from my brain. As always, I’d love to hear from you.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. 11 September 2012 5:15 am

    I’m catching up on my reading, and I continue to love your Running Thoughts. Thanks for publishing these gems of journal writing.

    Such an interesting idea – “are we glamorizing failure?” I don’t think folks are trying to make it look pretty, but I do think folks are trying to recast failure in schools because it is such a fundamentally important component of learning. Perhaps we are trying to recontextualize failure. Maybe school takes failure out of context by assigning symbolic letters to it that begin to stigmatize instead of instruct through feedback. Maybe, ironically, the numbers and letters are what have “glamorized” failure. Perhaps the failure writers are trying to strip that ridiculous clothing from failure so that students can learn better from the failures.

    Thanks for making my brain run a bit this morning.

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