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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cross Fit aka my return to middle school at age 44

Last week I started doing Cross Fit.  

Bob had been going to CF Resilience in Hopkinton 5 days a week for a few months.  He had been trying to get me to come and give it a try.  I had been hesitant as I had heard CF was a bit "clubby" or even worse was a "cult" lol.  I was afraid that I would not "fit in" with all the big power lifters (as I weigh 112 soaking wet and can barely do one pull up let alone those kookie kipping pull ups). Last week, with Bob's incessant badgering at an all time high, I decided to stray outside of my comfort zone and join.  

As a middle school teacher I suggest to my students to: 
1. Step outside their comfort zone and take a risk
2. Never judge someone by another person's words but instead take the time to get to know them on your own terms, 
3.  Realize there is no failure there is only learning.  

On my first day of Cross Fit I realized I was just like the "new kid" in middle school.

That first day I saw all the women my age (40-50) were in a group stretching. I felt uncomfortable just sitting down with them...what if they did not like me?  The younger fitter women were focused on stretching alone and I found them very intimidating as they looked as if they could bench press me with ease.  I dared not go near any of them. The fittest men were in a group discussing all their accomplishments. They were speaking a language that was obviously "CF"  (they could have been speaking Klingon for all I knew). I certainly wasn't going into that group! Even with Bob there I was scared I would make a fool of myself.  

When I teach I try to keep in mind that my actions, and more importantly my reactions to my students can have a far reaching effect on their sense of self.  I never want to see a child that is excited about school feel the sting of an off hand comment or criticism that is not growth based but instead dulls the light that is their love of learning.  It is scary to raise your hand and share your ideas.  It is scary to stand up and try to explain why you are learning make connections to the bigger picture.  It is scary to open your self to the judgement of your peers and your teacher. If we want to celebrate risk taking in the middle school we must first create a SAFE environment...

When I stood in front of the WOD board where the coach lists the work out of the day I had no idea what we were going to be doing (Cindy! AMRAP! ACK...What does that mean?).  I looked around and everyone else seemed to know exactly what they were doing.  I watched them and followed their lead and when I could I asked Bob for clarification.  He kept saying, "so and so will show you"....but I was still do I know that the coach will know I need help? I am afraid to ask questions in front of everyone because then I am just taking up their workout time with my silly questions.  I don't want them to know how little I know...

When a student  struggles with learning it can be very difficult to call attention to ask for is much easier to just follow along with everyone else and pretend you know what is expected. 

Instead of asking for help I decided to just follow  a women that looked relatively fit.  I would just do what she did.  I grabbed the same weights she did, the same kettle bells and the same size box...
and then the clock started
and I was lost
I couldn't follow her because the weights were too heavy for me to keep up.  In fact my form was so off I actually felt like I was hurting myself.  People around me quickly noticed that I was not using good form, that I looked confused and soon the coach came over and said "lets get some different size weights for you Michelle" 
no one laughed
no one pointed
in fact people smiled at me encouragingly

I try to model what I hope my students will achieve by breaking down a project into steps and creating an exemplar as I introduce students to the steps. I think it is helpful not to just be given verbal/written directions along with an exemplar of the final project, but to also watch the teacher model each step of the process.  That is why I like to "be a student" and follow the engineering design process to solve the same problem that they are solving. 

The coach was so kind. He modeled each move for me and also gave me alternate ways of doing something so I did not feel any pain.  He showed me how to do the move...I did it and he gave me constructive feedback and I would try again.  I still made mistakes but with the lighter weights and the alternate moves I was able to complete the entire WOD!

One of the reasons I love teaching is every day I witness children who struggle to learn something stick with it and have success....there is nothing better in the world....


finishing my first Cross fit WOD came pretty close : )